Half of UK homes now subscribe to streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime

Netflix mobile OITNBNearly half of UK households now subscribe to TV streaming services, as traditional TV viewing rates continue to decline, according to a report from Ofcom.

The number of UK homes signed up to either Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Now TV, or Disney Life has increased to 13.3m – or 47 per cent of households – this year from 11.2m in 2018. Between these households, the total number of streaming subscriptions has grown from 15.6m to 19.1m.

“Online platforms have been changing how audiences watch TV and movies for years now. Initially, the success of VoD was driven by convenience – viewers wanted mass content when and where they wanted to watch it. But that’s changed and it’s about much more than convenience now. People choose to subscribe to the likes of Netflix, NowTV and Amazon because they want the content, the talent and the watercooler moments on offer – whether that’s Netflix’s original own-branded content like Stranger Things, or YouTube’s popular influencers like Pewdiepie and Zoella. That isn’t going to change – but what will be interesting is whether the current leaders can maintain their position,” said Josh Krichefski, UK CEO at MediaCom.

“The market looks set to be more crowded than it ever has been, with Disney announcing further details on its plan to bundle ESPN+ and Hulu within Disney+. And whether it’s the gargantuan pull of Disney’s content – both old and new – or the great storytelling on the likes of Sky’s NowTV (Chernobyl) viewers will demand quality over quantity. Audiences will not pay for every single VoD service. They will make a choice on which to keep and which to get rid of. Ultimately, the winner in the race for subscribers will be whoever can consistently produce new and refreshing content. And audiences will take their eyeballs elsewhere if they don’t like what they see.”

Traditional TV viewing still accounts for 69 percent of TV time, equating to an average of three hours 12 minutes a day. However, people now watch 50 minutes less traditional TV each day than they did in 2010, with viewership among 16-24-year-olds halving in that period.

Amongst these younger people, YouTube is now, for the first time, watched for more than an hour a day (64 minutes). Overall, YouTube viewing increased by six minutes to 34 minutes, while overall daily viewing of streaming services increased by seven minutes to 26 minutes.

40 per cent of UK adults now consider online video services their main way of watching TV and film, with a similar number of people foreseeing that they may not watch any traditional TV in five years’ time.

Though general broadcast viewing time is falling, the five main public service broadcasters – BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, and S4C – saw their viewing share sit at 52 per cent in 2018, up slightly from 51 per cent the year prior.

“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,” said Yih-Choung The, strategy and research group director at Ofcom.

“But traditional broadcasters still have a vital role to play, producing the kind of brilliant UK programmes that overseas tech giants struggle to match.”