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Changes in TV habits

Young desert the box in favour of online viewing


ClarksonFormer BBC Top Gear presenters moved to Amazon Prime 


Young viewers are deserting traditional television viewing in favour of online programming and video content, according to new research.

They are driving a shift in viewing habits as the number of UK subscriptions to television streaming services like Netflix has overtaken those to traditional pay television for the first time.

The amount of revenue generated from pay TV has also fallen for the first time, after a period of sustained growth, new research from media regulator Ofcom finds.

It reveals that spending by the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, on new UK-made television programmes fell to a 20-year low.

The research shows that Scots spend more time than those in other parts of the UK watching broadcast television on a TV set, though the average is down by 46 minutes (-16%) compared to 2010.

The decline in broadcast TV viewing is even steeper among younger viewers. In 2017, 4 to 15-year-olds watched 1 hour and 27 minutes of broadcast TV each day, down from 2 hours 28 minutes in 2010, a decline of 41%.

Similarly, 16 to 34-year-olds watched 2 hours 16 minutes of broadcast TV per day in 2017, compared with 3 hours 25 minutes in 2010 (-34%).

This means that the over-55s in Scotland watched almost four times as much broadcast television per day than children.

The findings are part of Ofcom’s Media Nations report, a comprehensive study of trends in the television, radio and audio sectors, published today.

The report highlights a competitive shift within the UK television industry, driven by the rise of the major global internet companies and the changing habits and preferences of UK audiences. With more choice for viewers than ever before, UK broadcasters are competing for viewers in an increasingly fragmented landscape.

The research follows a review of STV’s operations by new CEO Simon Pitts, who said the company had to adapt to changes in consumer viewing trends. He took the decision to close STV2 at the end of June, claiming that ‘no one was watching it’.

Although people in Scotland are watching less broadcast television, they are spending more time watching other things on their TV set.

Viewers in Scotland spent a daily average of 3 hours 46 minutes watching broadcast television on the TV set, 24 minutes more than the UK average of 3 hours 23 minutes.

Daily viewing of non-broadcast content, such as YouTube and subscription on-demand services including Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, increased by three minutes (8%) in 2017, to 40 minutes.

BBC iPlayer was the most popular online streaming service in Scotland, with 47% claiming to have used it, followed by Netflix (39%) and the STV Player (31%).


young viewersChildren are less inclined to watch programmes on a TV set (pic: Ofcom)


The use of Netflix, in particular, is heavily skewed towards younger viewers in Scotland. Thirty-one per cent of adults in Scotland claim to use the service at least once a week. This rises to 60% among 16-24s and 53% among 25-34s, but drops to just 8% of the 65+ age group.

Glenn Preston, Ofcom’s Scotland director, said: “Today’s research shows that the way people in Scotland watch TV is changing rapidly.

“Although viewers in Scotland watch more TV than in the rest of the UK, they are spending less time watching ‘traditional’ broadcast TV and are turning to online streaming services, attracted by their exclusive programmes and vast libraries of classic shows.

“Broadcasters in Scotland must confront the challenges posed by both online streaming companies and the changing way people are watching television, to ensure they continue to make great shows to appeal to Scottish viewers in the digital age.”

Other key findings from the report include:

  • In 2017 the BBC, STV and ITV spent a combined £53.9m on first-run, UK made programmes for viewers in Scotland, an 8% real-terms decrease year-on-year. Although accounting for the largest proportion of spend on first-run, UK originations for Scotland, the BBC reduced its annual programming spend by 10%, while STV and ITV’s spend remained broadly stable;
  • Viewers in Scotland continue to value public service broadcasting content, with 71% of viewers either satisfied or very satisfied. This compares with a UK average of 75%, 75% in England, 72% in Wales and 69% in Northern Ireland.
  • The semi-final of Strictly Come Dancing was the most-viewed broadcast programme on the TV set across Scotland in 2017, with an audience of nearly 1.2 million
  • Digital radio listening in Scotland (either online, through digital television or through a DAB set) increased, reaching 47% of all listening hours by the start of 2018, up from 30% in 2013. Ownership of DAB radios is higher in Scotland than in the rest of the UK (66% at the start of 2018 compared with the UK average of 64%).
  • At 39.1%, satellite TV take-up in Scotland was higher than across the UK as a whole (37.1%)
  • Streaming has overtaken established pay TV. The total number of UK subscriptions to the three most popular online streaming services – Netflix, Amazon Prime and Sky’s Now TV – reached 15.4 million in Q1 2018, overtaking, for the first time, the number of pay TV subscriptions, at 15.1 million
  • Pay TV revenue declined for the first time. Following a period of sustained growth, the UK’s pay TV providers saw a 2.7% decrease in total revenue last year to £6.4bn. In contrast, the increasing number of streaming subscriptions contributed to a 28% growth in online audio-visual revenues, to £2.3bn in 2017. Meanwhile, television advertising income fell by 7%, to £3.9bn
  • BBC Radio 2 was the most listened-to station across Scotland in Q1 2018, with a reach of 27.8%, followed by BBC Radio Scotland with 20%. However, there were differences in radio listening habits depending on where people live and what stations are available. For example, within the central belt, where 62% of adults live, Capital Scotland was the third most popular station, with 17% reach, as opposed to BBC Radio 1 across Scotland as a whole. But in Aberdeenshire, Bauer’s Northsound 1 was the most popular station, reaching almost two-fifths (39%) of adults in the area.Top 20 most-watched programmes in Scotland, 2017

Most watched programmes 2017


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