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Post-Covid TV viewership slows and goes on-demand

August 30, 2022 | By Rande Price, Research VP – DCN

As in many countries, TV and video viewership in the UK registered a surge during Covid. However, as consumers re-emerged from lockdowns, TV viewing time declined. Ofcom’s fifth annual Media Nations UK 2022 Report offers insight into viewership patterns in the UK and the audience shift to on-demand platforms.  

On-demand takes time viewed

Total viewing time for TV and video in 2021 was 5 hours and 16 minutes per person per day, a decline of 25 minutes in 2020 but up from 2019.

Time spent on broadcasters, across live TV, recordings, and on-demand, declined by 9% compared to 2020 and 4% in 2019. As a result, broadcasters’ share of viewing continues to fall from 67% in 2019, to 61% in 2020, to 59% in 2021. Interestingly, broadcast video-on-demand (BVOD) increased by an average of three minutes per person per day compared to 2020, growing its viewership share from 6% to 8% in 2021.

Time viewing SVOD, at 58 minutes per day per person, declined by 6% from 2020. However, SVOD maintained its share of viewing, from 19% in 2020 to 18% in 2021.

SVOD market matures

Subscriptions to SVOD services (at least one service) declined slightly in the UK from 68% to 67%, or19.2 million households, compared to Q1 2022.

However, Ofcom’s analysis confirms a high concentration of multiple SVOD services among UK households. Nearly half of all UK households (46%), which is approximately 13.2 million, access two or more services in Q1 2022. Furthermore, of these households, 5.2 million—or about one in five homes—subscribe to the three most popular services: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+.

Netflix remains the largest SVOD provider in the UK, with 17.1 million households (60%) subscribing. It’s followed by Amazon Prime Video (46%) and Disney+ (23%).

Maintaining subscribers is crucial in a competitive SVOD market. According to Ofcom’s report, 2% of Netflix users, 4% of Amazon Prime Video users, and Disney+ users canceled their subscriptions in the past three months. Ofcom’s Public Service Media (PSM) tracker identified cost as the top reason for cancellation.

Audience attitudes

In addition to time spent, the Ofcom report provides details on viewer satisfaction and offers insight into audience engagement. Eighty-six percent of consumers who used Netflix in the past six months said they were satisfied with the service, while 81% said the same about Amazon Prime Video and Disney+, respectively.

Top Netflix attribute scores: 

  • Provides services that are easy to find my way around (82%);
  • easy to find something I want to watch (80%);
  • Appeals to a wide range of different audiences (82%); and
  • has programs that are relevant to me (75%).

Top Disney+ attribute scores:  

  • Easy to find my way around (78%);
  • easy to find something I want to watch (74%); and
  • appeals to a wide range of different audiences (73%).

SVOD market growth

Overall, the SVOD market performed strongly in 2021. It generated approximately $3.2 billion (or about £2.7 billion), an increase of 27% compared to last year. The top three services—Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+—accounted for 89% of the market share.

Ofcom’s analysis highlights the evolving TV and video landscape and the divide between younger and older viewers. Almost nine in ten adults, 18-24, go straight to streaming, on-demand, and social video services when looking for something to watch. In contrast, 59% of adults aged 55-64, and 76% of adults who are 65+, turn to TV channels first.

The report also suggests that streaming services with hybrid business models may become more common among SVOD offerings. Introducing ad-supported tiers (e.g., Netflix and Disney+) subscription opportunities to hard-to-convert viewers may move the dial for new subscribers. As the on-demand market evolves, media companies must consider multiple access points, platforms, and price points to acquire new subscribers to grow their audience share.

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