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Ofcom: Netflix more popular with UK viewers than pay-TV

Broadcast TV’s share of all adults’ total viewing dropped from 67 per cent in 2019 to 61 per cent

A new survey from Ofcom has found Netflix was more popular with UK viewers than pay-TV during 2020.

In its Media Nations 2021 report, the regulator found more than half of UK households (52 per cent) have taken out a Netflix subscription – meaning its customer base exceeds that of pay-TV providers combined for the very first time (48 per cent).

In total, viewers spent more than 2,000 hours watching TV and online video content last year, spending almost twice as much time watching SVoDs such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney Plus (one hour and 5 minutes per day).

UK subscriptions to streaming services climbed by over 50 per cent last year to reach 31 million, up from 20 million in 2019. This meant that, by September 2020, 60 per cent of UK homes were signed up, compared to 49 per cent a year earlier.

The report added that in April 2021, streaming service providers were offering UK viewers a combined total of over 115,000 hours of content. Amazon Prime video’s catalogue was the largest at over 41,000 hours, followed by Netflix at around 38,000. The combined content catalogues of All 4, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and My5 totalled 37,000 hours.

In terms of traditional broadcast TV, the average viewing time each day in 2020 was 3 hours 12 minutes – nine minutes higher than in 2019. Ofcom said this increase was entirely driven by people aged 45 and over.

Broadcast TV viewing by younger age groups dropped; viewers aged 16-24, for example, only spent an hour and 17 minutes watching broadcast content – down from one hour and 21 minutes in 2019.

Overall, the net effect was a fall in broadcast TV’s share of all adults’ total viewing last year, from 67 per cent in 2019 to 61 per cent.

Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s group director, Strategy and Research, said: “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.”

“The pandemic undoubtedly turbo-charged viewing to streaming services, with three in five UK 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.”