Ofcom: UK becomes a nation of streamers but broadcast TV leads the way on content

Around half of all UK homes now subscribe to TV streaming services, according to Ofcom’s Media Nations report, which reveals rapid shifts in the nation’s viewing habits. And while traditional TV viewing continued to decline in 2018, the UK’s public service broadcasters – BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and S4C – showed more than 100 times more original, homegrown shows than the overseas streaming platforms.

  • The number of UK households signed up to the most popular streaming platforms – Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Now TV and Disney Life – increased from 11.2m (39%) in 2018 to 13.3m (47%) in 2019.
  • While traditional viewing still accounts for most TV time (69% – or 3 hours 12 minutes, on average, per day), this fell by nine minutes in 2017, and by 11 minutes last year.
  • Viewers now watch 50 minutes less traditional TV each day than in 2010. The shift is most pronounced among younger people (16-24s), whose viewing of traditional TV has halved in that time. In contrast, average daily viewing to streaming services rose by seven minutes last year, to 26 minutes; while viewing to YouTube rose by six minutes, to 34 minutes. For the first time, young people now spend more than an hour on YouTube every day (64 minutes, up from 59 minutes).
  • Two in five UK adults now consider online video services to be their main way of watching TV and film.

The way we watch TV is changing faster than ever before. In the space of seven years, streaming services have grown from nothing to reach nearly half of British homes. But traditional broadcasters still have a vital role to play, producing the kind of brilliant UK programmes that overseas tech giants struggle to match. We want to sustain that content for future generations, so we’re leading a nationwide debate on the future of public service broadcasting.

Yih-Choung Teh, Strategy and Research Group Director at Ofcom