Streaming services took over Britons’ households in 2020, report finds

Britons' households

It’s common sense by now that the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic had a hand in increasing the hours people spent glued to the blue hue of their digital devices. However, we now have the exact numbers on how high the surge was for Britons’ households. 

Thanks to research from the UK’s media regulator Ofcom, Britons are currently aware that they spent a third of their waking hours (more than 2,000 hours) watching TV or online videos during 2020. 

Almost everyone spent at least 5 hours and 40 minutes per day in 2020 viewing online content, causing a surge in the total viewing of 47 minutes compared to the year prior. 

Due to the lack of entertaining options during lockdown, Netflix became the platform of choice, with dramas such as Netflix’s The Crown rising to the top of the most-watched list. While YouTube continues to be the most popular user-generated online video service, with Britons spending almost 41 minutes each day enjoying free online videos.  

As the nation-wide lockdown was set in place, Britons diversified their watch list with new types of services such as TikTok. The growth of the Chinese video sharing app’s viewers grew more rapidly in comparison to YouTube, reaching 31 percent of UK adults by March 2021. 

TV channels were also utilized by the majority of Britons’ households, as there was a growth in views for services such as BBC iPlayer and Channel 4’s 4oD. This was expected as most citizens were agitated and ready for major news to hit at any moment. However, the numbers presented by Ofcom may lead us to think that the long-term viability of UK’s traditional broadcasters is at risk. 

The rapid growth of US-owned streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+ have lured Britons away from choosing traditional content as their choice of entertainment. In 2020, more than 60 percent of UK households were subscribed to a streaming service, showcasing a 49 percent increase from last year. 

Yih-Choung The, Ofcom’s lead director for strategy and research said that “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 turbocharged viewing to streaming services, with three in five UK homes now signed up,” Choung added. 

However, as 2021 saw lockdown restrictions disintegrating, subscriber growth has slowed down. This poses an interesting challenge on streaming services; how will competing streaming services keep generating interesting content that keep users hooked?