British TV viewing drops to 3 hrs 12 mins a day as growth in online take-up grows

People in Britain tuned into their televisions for an average of three hours and 12 minutes a day in 2018, figures from the official broadcasting watchdog Ofcom showed on Wednesday.

Ofcom’s latest Media Nations annual report revealed that 38 percent of people who use video on demand services, known as subscription video-on-demand (SVoD) users, say they can imagine not watching any broadcast TV in five years’ time.

Ofcom said the latest daily-viewing level represents a drop of 49 minutes a day compared with 2012, with the fall in younger viewers being much steeper. Young people aged from 16 to 24 watched an average of 85 minutes of broadcast TV a day in 2018, 15 minutes lower than the previous year.

Figures also showed that four in 10 British viewers now say that online video services are their main way of watching television and film.

“The Internet is massively increasing the choice available to UK viewers,” said Ofcom. “More than half of UK households now have their TV connected to the Internet and eight in 10 adults have a smartphone, which they are increasingly using to watch video.”

Around half of British households now subscribe to at least one SVoD service, such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, while British adults watch, on average, about half an hour of YouTube each day, according to the report.

“Broadcast television, and public service broadcasting in particular, remains valued and accounts for the majority of people’s viewing, but its use is falling as viewers take up online services,” the report added.

People aged 75 and over tune into the television more than any other age group, who watch an average of five hours and 49 minutes a day, almost doubling the national average. All age groups below 44 years old watch less than the national average of three hours and 12 minutes a day.

Ofcom said that the fall in broadcast viewing does not appear to be caused by negative sentiment towards broadcast TV.

More than half of the adults feel the quality of broadcast TV programs has remained the same over the past year, and a further 21 percent think it has improved. But 42 percent of adults consider online video services their main way of watching TV and film.

Despite the growing availability of television and online viewing, live radio remains popular in Britain, with listening to UK-wide commercial stations particularly strong.

In the first three months of 2019, almost 90 percent of British adults tuned into radios, and people aged over 64 years old were the biggest radio audience.

“The way we watch TV is changing faster than ever before,” said Yih-Choung Teh, strategy and research group director at Ofcom. “In the space of seven years, streaming services have grown from nothing to reach nearly half of British homes.”

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