Ofcom: Pubcasters Invested More in Drama & Factual, Less in Children’s


LONDON: A new Ofcom study finds that the U.K.’s public service broadcasters (PSBs) spent £2.5 billion ($3.2 billion) on new homegrown programs in 2015, a 2-percent increase since 2013.

According to Ofcom’s PSB Annual Research Report, PSBs still account for more than half of broadcast TV viewing, and around three in four viewers are satisfied with their services. The main five public service channels provided by PSBs—BBC One, BBC Two, Channel 3 services (ITV, STV, UTV), Channel 4 and Channel 5—reached 84 percent of the TV population in a typical week, and accounted for 51 percent of all broadcast TV viewing in 2015. This share is similar to the last three years, but represents a decline from ten years ago, when PSBs held a 70-percent share of viewing.

The review points to a widening generational gap in the viewing habits of the youngest and oldest audiences. People under 25 are watching around a quarter less broadcast TV than in 2010, while the average viewing of those aged 55 to 64 has only declined by 5 percent. The 16-to-24 group has particularly embraced on-demand services, and spend around a third of their daily viewing time watching free or paid on-demand services. Live TV accounts for 36 percent of daily viewing in this age group, a 14 percentage-point decrease in two years.

PSBs’ spending on new U.K. factual programs rose by 8 percent to £522 million ($676 million), more than any other genre and the highest investment in this type of program since 2008. They also spent more in 2015 on original U.K. drama, up 12 percent to £311 million ($403 million), and showed more of it—416 hours, up from 371 hours. However, the hours of original U.K. children’s programs decreased in 2015—from 672 in 2014 to 580. This was the first time fewer than 600 hours of original U.K. children’s programs have been broadcast since 1998. Spending on this genre was £77 million ($99 million), down 13 percent on 2014. The PSBs also spent less on new U.K. arts and classical music programs in 2015—£36 million ($46 million), down 14 percent from 2014—as well as religion and ethics, down by 6 percent to £12 million ($15.5 million). Original U.K. comedy also decreased, by 4 percent to £99 million ($128 million).

Jane Rumble, the director of market intelligence at Ofcom, said: “Our research shows that U.K. audiences still watch and value public service broadcasting. But there are significant differences in the viewing habits of older and younger audiences.

“As media and technology continue to evolve, it is important that broadcasters respond to these changes, so they can keep meeting the needs and expectations of viewers.”