Viewing of BBC television has fallen further among all those aged under 75, with those aged 16-24 watching least, although dissatisfaction is highest among those aged over 45. That presents a concerning picture for the broadcaster, particularly when only 4% of those with Netflix expressed dissatisfaction with that service. The communications regulator Ofcom says it wants the BBC to develop a plan and to explain publicly how it will deliver its priorities and report on its progress.
Usage of BBC services in the United Kingdom is down to under an hour a day among those aged 16-34. That has fallen by over a quarter an hour a day since to 2017 to 28 minutes a day. Across all individuals it has fallen by 19 minutes to 2 hours and 22 minutes a day.
Television viewing in 2019 fell to an average of less than a quarter of an hour a day among those aged 16-24, or 23 minutes for those aged 25-34, while those aged 65-74 watch for an average of 113 minutes a day.
In its third annual report on the BBC since it began overseeing the BBC, the communications regulator Ofcom found that the BBC is broadly continuing to deliver on its remit but the need to respond to changing audience habits and markets is becoming more urgent.
Ofcom observes that if audiences do not consider the BBC a core part of their viewing, they may not see value in the licence fee, which in turn, risks the BBC’s ability to deliver its mission and public purposes in future. The BBC also needs to broaden its reach and appeal to a wider range of people, in particular audiences from minority ethnic backgrounds and those in lower socio-economic groups.
87% of adults use the BBC in a week, down from 92% in three years, but this varies from 92% of those in the AB socio-economic group down to 77% of those aged 15-24.
59% of adults think that the BBC accurately represents and authentically portrays the live and culture of a range of different communities in the United Kingdom. Interestingly, that is slightly lower among those aged over 65 at 53% and slightly higher among those aged 16-34 at 64%.
69% of those aged 16-34 scored BBC television at 7 or higher out of 10 in terms of satisfaction, compared to 88% for Netflix, 82% for Amazon Prime Video, and 75% for Sky.
Satisfaction was lower among those aged over 55, with 59% scoring BBC television at 7 or higher, while for Netflix it was 67%, with Amazon Prime at 66% and Sky at 63%. Satisfaction with the BBC has also slowly fallen across all ages over the last three years.
Among the AB socio-economic groups satisfaction with BBC television was 69%, while among those in CDE groups it was 63%. That compares with Netflix, which was about 85%.
Netflix is of course a subscription service, so those households that choose to pay would be expected to derive satisfaction from it, but the level of appreciation appears comparatively high.
Conventional wisdom would suggest that younger people would be less likely to be satisfied with BBC television. However, 10% of those aged 16-24 expressed dissatisfaction, 9% of those aged 25-34, rising to 11% for those 35-44, 16% among those 45-54, and 14% for those 55-64, 19% for those 65-74, and 16% for those aged over 75.
Ofcom observes that transitioning from being primarily a broadcaster on television and radio channels to one that focuses on delivery through its digital on-demand services is not an easy or quick process. It requires investment, and fundamental change across the organisation, in technology, distribution and content.
The regulator is calling on the BBC to be more transparent in reporting the performance of its iPlayer as it places more emphasis on its contribution to fulfilling its remit.
Ofcom’s Annual Report on the BBC 2019/20 is published on the Ofcom web site. It is accompanied by an interactive presentation of key performance indicators.