“Brits spend a third of 2020 watching TV and video” was the headline from the communications regulator Ofcom. Adults spent an average of five hours and 40 minutes a day watching television or video, which is less than a quarter of a day. Perhaps they meant a third of their time awake, but people spend less time watching television than sleeping does not make for such a dramatic headline. Even so it was 47 minutes more viewing than in 2019. The change was mainly driven by people spending almost twice as much time watching subscription streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+.
The Ofcom Media Nations report provides a statistical summary of viewing trends in the United Kingdom. The pandemic accelerated existing trends in video viewing, such as the ongoing shift from broadcast television to viewing on demand.
Adults spent almost three and a half hours a day watching broadcast programming, of which half an hour was recorded playback and just 12 minutes was broadcaster video on demand. They spent an average of an hour and five minutes a day watching subscription video services.
Those aged 16-34 watched slightly less television and video, at five hours and 16 minutes a day, of which just under a third or one hour 42 minutes was spent watching broadcast programming, including 26 minutes recorded playback and just 11 minutes watching broadcaster video on demand.
Viewing of subscription video services almost doubled in 2020, from 12% of total video viewing to 19%.
Ofcom reports that six out of ten homes in the United Kingdom had an online video subscription, compared to half of homes a year previously. That was higher than take up of television subscriptions, which just under half of households have in the United Kingdom.
The combined catalogues of online video subscription services offered a total of 115,000 hours of programming, led by Amazon Prime with 41,000 hours and Netflix at 38,000 hours. The combined catalogues of the BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4 and My5 offered 37,000 hours, although they had much more programming produced in the United Kingdom than the global players.
Nearly half of adults in the United Kingdom considered online viewing to be their main way of watching television and four out of ten subscribers to online video services said they could not envisage watching broadcast television at all in five years.
Estimated annual revenue from subscription online video services passed £2.1 billion, up by 28% on the previous year, with Netflix taking over half of that. In comparison, platform operators like Sky still took an estimated £6.2 billion in television revenues.
The annual Media Nations report is available from the Ofcom web site and provides a wealth of data on viewing trends.