It’s official. Ofcom’s latest annual study of the UK’s media habits confirms what we all suspected: last year’s COVID-19 restrictions resulted in an acceleration in viewing habits for TV and online streaming. The question is of course, how much of this is set to stay?

Whilst here at MTM we recommend a read of the full report linked to above, in this week’s mailer we’ve summarised the key points that caught our eye:

  • Total adult viewing of audio-visual content increased by 47 minutes per day year on year, to 5 hours 40 minutes per person per day in 2020, with nearly all forms of video viewing increasing yearly
  • Whilst broadcast content is still receiving the lion’s share of viewing per day, we have seen a significant shift towards Video on Demand (VoD) content: the increase in TV and video time was mainly driven by people spending almost twice as much time watching Subscription VoD (SVoD) streaming services as before (one hour and five minutes per day, on services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ and Britbox)
  • Ofcom suggests the boom in streaming services and original content from 2020 is not a one-off phenomenon, but will be a long-term effect from COVID – though viewing hours will decrease as life opens up, technological advances, increasing choice and content wars will force VOD services to compete more fiercely to meet the increased hunger for content.
  • SVoD services were used by a huge 60% of all UK households by Q3 2020, up significantly from 49% a year earlier.
  • Another landmark data point: In 2020, for the first time, more households were subscribed to Netflix than Pay-TV (more than half of households vs. 48% respectively, by Q3 2020)
  • Over a third of SVoD users (42%) said they could envisage not watching broadcast TV at all five years from now, increasing to 49% of 18-34s
  • But despite broadcaster TV seeing its overall share of total video viewing decline during COVID (from 67% in 2019 to 61% in 2020) and lacking the overall scale of SVoD offerings, they remain one of the biggest providers of video content for UK audiences. After Netflix, the BBC iPlayer was the leading VoD platforms by content streams in 2020
  • Broadcaster VoD (BVoD) continues to be a destination for British TV programmes in particular: In 2020, UK flagship dramas, such as Line of Duty and It’s a Sin, and live sports have been key audience drivers for BVoD services
  • When it comes to radio and audio, the sector continues to innovate in an increasingly digital world; over half of UK adults now listen to live radio via a Digital Audio Broadcast (DAB) radio set, music streaming continues to grow and now makes up 17% of total audio listening (up 12% since 2015)
  • It’s good news for smart tech – 50% of UK adults now claim to have a smart speaker in their home

What does this mean for the media industry?

The acceleration of the streaming market across 2020 has led to new challenges and opportunities:

  • LOYALTY: For SVOD in particular, projections forecast a slowdown peaking in 2024 due to an overcrowded market and subscription fatigue. This will place increased importance on building loyalty. For more information on this, watch out soon for details on MTM’s future webinar about how to acquire and retain subscribers!
  • CONTENT: For traditional broadcasters to compete with SVoD in the future, they will need to collaborate or widen their coverage, for example launching in new markets or on new platforms, and acquiring international networks’ content to then compete with Disney+, Netflix and Prime
  • LONG LIVE TV: However, broadcasters should be confident for now, as live TV had a strong share of TV viewing for news and events this past year such as the Queen’s COVID-19 speech which saw 24.3 million views and Euro’s 2021 final England Vs Italy which saw 31 million. This indicates that COVID-19 crisis has reinforced the importance of public service broadcasters as trusted providers of news, information, big events and flagship programmes