People aged 16-24 in the United Kingdom spent less than an hour a day watching traditional television in 2021, a fall of two-thirds in the last decade. They now watch seven times less traditional television than those aged over 65, who still watch for almost six hours a day, slightly more than they did ten years ago. Average viewing minutes per person across all age groups are significantly down on previous years for the first half of 2022.

While international football finals still attract audiences of 18 million, audiences and levels of viewing for public service broadcasters continue to fall.

In 2021, those aged 16-24 watched an average of 53 minutes of television a day, including recordings and online catch-up services, down from 2 hours and 45 minutes in 2011.

Those aged 25-34 watched an average of 1 hour 30 minutes a day in 2021, down from 3 hours and 16 minutes in 2011.

Television viewing has fallen across all age groups apart from those aged over 65, who watched an average of 5 hours 50 minutes a day in 2021, which three minutes more than they did in 2011.

The average time spent watching the online services of broadcasters such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and All 4 increased to 15 minutes per day in 2021, up by three minutes per person per day on the previous year. However, that only partially offset a reduction of 21 minutes a day in live and recorded television viewing.

The figures, provided by the broadcast research organisation BARB, are from the fifth annual Media Nations report from the communications regulator Ofcom.

Of total video viewing in 2021, live television produced 46%, recorded playback a further 9% and broadcaster online video another 5%. Taken together that is 60% of all viewing. Online video subscription services accounted for 18%.

Average daily viewing of the most popular channel, BBC One, was down to 39 minutes per person, compared to 50 minutes in 2011. The weekly reach of BBC One, based on 15 or more minutes of continuous viewing, was down to 62%, compared to 73% five years before.

Those aged 16-24 watched BBC One for an average of less than 9 minutes a day, while for those aged 25-34 it was under 14 minutes a day, and for those aged 35-44 it was 23 minutes a day. People aged 65-74 watched BBC One for an average of 86 minutes a day, or almost an hour and a half.

The weekly reach of the five public service channels fell to 76% of all individuals in 2021, with less than half of those aged 16-24 watching at least 15 consecutive minutes of the channels in an average week.

The first half of 2022 has seen notably lower levels of television viewing. Average daily viewing in each month fell by an average of 33 minutes compared to the same month the previous year. That follows an increase in viewing in 2020 as a result of pandemic restrictions.

BARB Average daily television viewing 2020-2022. Source: BARB / Ofcom / informitv analysis

Online video subscription services are now used by 67% of households in the United Kingdom, accounting for 18% of total television viewing in 2021, or an average of 58 minutes or almost an hour per person per day.

Ofcom research suggests that 57% of those aged 16-34 turn to an online video subscription service first when they do not have a specific programme in mind. In that case, only 7% of those aged 16-24 or 4% of those aged 25-34 turn to the online video service of a broadcaster.

A combination of subscriber growth and price increases increased online video subscription revenues in 2021 by 27% to £2.7 billion.

Despite a 13% decline in live television viewing in 2021, television advertising returned to growth after six consecutive years of contraction, with revenue rising to £4.7 billion.

Total audio-visual revenues in the United Kingdom rose to £19 billion in 2021, buoyed by an increase in advertising revenues and growth in online video subscriptions.

The annual Media Nations report is published by Ofcom and is available for download from its web site.