U.K. Streaming Usage Surges


Britons spent a third of their time watching TV and online video in 2020 amid Covid-19 lockdowns, according to new Ofcom data, driven in part by streaming usage gains.

Adults in the U.K. spent more than 2,000 hours watching TV and online video in 2020 for a daily average of 5 hours and 40 minutes, according to the Media Nations: U.K. 2021 report. Live TV remains out front with 162 minutes, with recorded playback at 33 minutes and BVOD at 12 minutes. Meanwhile, SVOD usage was up to 65 minutes, almost double the 2019 figures.

Among the 16 to 34 set, of the 5 hours and 16 minutes spent on TV and online video, live TV accounted for just 65 minutes, recorded playback 26 minutes and BVOD 11 minutes, while SVOD was up at 91 minutes.

Streaming subscriptions rose to 31 million in 2020, up from 20 million in 2019. As of September 2020, 60 percent of U.K. homes had a streaming subscription, compared to 49 percent a year earlier. More than half of U.K. households subscribed to Netflix in 2020, topping pay-TV penetration of 48 percent as of Q3 2020.

Streaming platforms across the U.K. had a slate of over 115,000 hours of content as of April this year, with Amazon Prime Video in the lead with 41,000 hours, followed by Netflix at 38,000—still ahead of the combined catalogs of All 4, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and My5 at 37,000 hours.

Netflix was out front in terms of most-watched titles on subscription services, boasting 29 of the top 30 in Q1. Of those, four were produced in the U.K.: Bridgerton, The Dig, Behind her Eyes and Fate: The Wynx Saga.

Broadcast TV gained viewing minutes in 2020, rising to 3 hours and 12 minutes a day, led by viewers 45 and up. People aged 16 to 24 spent an hour and 17 minutes watching broadcast content, down slightly from 2019. On broadcast TV, live sport, drama and news dominated. The most-watched show of the year so far was the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy, which delivered more than 22 million viewers on BBC One and ITV, followed by the England-Denmark semifinal. BBC One’s Line of Duty finale landed 16.4 million viewers, while ITV’s Oprah Winfrey interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex scored 14.9 million.

“TV and online video have proved an important antidote to lockdown life, with people spending a third of their waking hours last year glued to screens for news and entertainment,” said Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s group director of strategy and research. “The pandemic undoubtedly turbo-charged viewing to streaming services, with three in five U.K. homes now signed up. But with subscriber growth slowing into 2021 and lockdown restrictions easing, the challenge for the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Disney will be to ensure a healthy pipeline of content and keep customers signed up.”