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The UK has become a nation of binge-watchers

Forty million people are now watching multiple episodes of their favourite shows in a single viewing session

The UK has become a nation of binge-watchers according to Ofcom’s annual Communications Market Report.

Eight in ten adults in the UK, or 79 per cent or 40 million people, are now watching multiple episodes of their favourite shows in a single viewing session. They use catch-up technology, such as the BBC’s iPlayer, or subscription VoD services, such as Netflix and Amazon.

Younger people are more likely to use streaming services, with 76 per cent of people aged 16-24 using a subscription streaming service, compared to 19 per cent of those aged 65 and over.

Overall, 35 per cent of UK viewers binge-watch TV every week, and 55 per cent do so monthly. “Most binge-viewers (70 per cent) find this type of viewing relaxing and enjoyable, and for others it’s an opportunity to discuss with friends (24 per cent),” said Ofcom. “But around a third (32 per cent) of adults admit the temptation to watch another episode has cost them sleep and left them feeling tired.”

The report found 35 per cent of binge-viewers, and 47 per cent of young adults aged 16-24, are trying to cut down their viewing in some way, including by rationing viewing (19 per cent), finding an alternative hobby (ten per cent) or cancelling a TV subscription (4 per cent).

“Binge-viewing has such a strong allure that many viewers say they don’t intend to do it, but the pull of the next episode keeps them tuned in,” Ofcom wrote.

The research found that bingeing is most popular among young people, with 53 per cent of those aged 12-15 enjoying weekly marathon viewings, compared to just 16 per cent of over-65s. In that older demographic, 59 per cent prefer a traditional release of one episode per week.

A quarter of respondents said they bing-watched because of a fear of spoilers. “This can result in some (16 per cent) feeling under pressure to keep up with the viewing habits of family or friends,” Ofcom said.

Mobile devices have had a huge impact on viewing behaviour. “More than a third of people watch TV on the move – while on holiday (24 per cent), while commuting (16 per cent) or even in the pub (seven per cent),” reported Ofcom.. “Just over a half of people (51 per cent) watch TV in their bedroom, while others watch in the kitchen (16 per cent), the garden (nine per cent) or the bathroom (nine per cent).”

Fewer families are watching TV together then ever before. The report found two in five adults say they watch TV alone every day, and almost nine in ten watch shows alone at least once a week. One third of people say members of their household sit together, in the same room, watching different programs on separate screens.

Despite this, 30 per cent of adults say their family still watches the same TV programmes or films together every day, while 70 per cent do so at least once a week. “Nearly seven in ten (68 per cent) say watching TV can bring the whole family together for a shared viewing experience,” Ofcom found.