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Lockdown Prompts Surge in Popularity for Online Streaming Services

Ross Kelly

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Media Nations Report

Having launched on the first day of Britain’s lockdown, Disney+ has grown in popularity throughout the summer.

Figures published by Ofcom reveal a surge in TV viewing and online streaming since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The annual Ofcom Media Nations study, which examines media consumption across the UK, shows that many adults spent up to 40% of their day in front of a screen.

During the lockdown, Brits have spent six hours and 25 minutes each day watching TV and online video content – a total of almost 45 hours each week.

The latest figures highlight a rise in content consumption by almost one-third compared to the same time last year, Ofcom confirmed.

Streaming services have also grown in popularity during the lockdown, according to the report.

The time Brits spend on subscription-based services, such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video, has also doubled since lockdown measures were introduced in April.

People across the UK watched Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ on average for one hour 11 minutes each day.

The Media Nations 2020 report also found that an estimated 12 million people signed up to a new video streaming service during lockdown. Around three million of those people subscribed to one of these services for the first time.

Older viewers who may have traditionally only watched broadcast TV accounted for a significant portion of new streaming customers.

One-third of 55 to 64-year-olds and 15% of people aged 65 and over used subscription streaming services during the early weeks of lockdown. Respectively, this marks a 25% and 12% increase compared to before the pandemic.

Disney+ has proven to be a highly popular streaming service among Brits. The new service, which launched on the first day of lockdown, drew 16% of online adults by early July, Ofcom revealed.

Already, the service has surpassed NOW TV to become the third most-popular subscription streaming service behind Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.

Among children aged 3 to 11, Disney+ was used in one-third of homes by June, overtaking BBC iPlayer which saw use among these children fall from 26% to 22% during spring.

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Broadcasters’ video-on-demand service also saw an increase in popularity during lockdown. Dramas such as Killing Eve and Normal People helped attract a record 570 million programme requests throughout May; 72% higher compared to May 2019.

Channel 4’s on-demand service, All 4, also saw a 30% increase in views among people aged 16-34 during the early weeks of lockdown.

In Scotland specifically, the Ofcom Media Nations report identified Netflix as the most popular subscription streaming service and is present in nearly half (49%) of homes while BBC iPlayer was the most-popular broadcast video on demand player at the beginning of 2020.

Just over one-third (35%) of homes in Scotland use BBC iPlayer, the report shows, followed closely by STV Player (25%).

Compared to the rest of the UK, people in Scotland were also found to watch the most broadcast TV. On average, people north of the border spent three hours 22 minutes watching broadcast TV last year.

As nationwide lockdown measures began to ease in June, streaming service consumption remained steady, the report found.

The uplift in video streaming service use, as well as other non-broadcast content, was 71% higher than the same period in 2019. Conversely, by the end of June, traditional broadcast TV consumption declined from a peak in early lockdown – falling by 44 minutes to an average of three hours 2 minutes per day.

Ofcom said broadcast TV viewing is now lower than it was between 2014 to 2017.

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While streaming services continue to disrupt the market, traditional broadcasters such as the BBC, ITV, STV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 briefly achieved their highest combined monthly share of TV viewing in more than six years in March.

This increase, the Media Nations report shows, was largely driven by a demand for trust news programmes as the pandemic accelerated.

Among these broadcasters, the BBC was highlighted as the most popular source of news and information about Covid-19, being used by 80% of adults during the first week of lockdown.

“The pandemic showed public service broadcasting at its best, delivering trusted news and UK content that viewers really value,” said Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom strategy and research group director.

“But UK broadcasters face a tough advertising marketing, production challenges and financial uncertainty. So, they need to keep demonstrating that value int he fact of intense competition from streaming services,” Teh added.

Ross Kelly

Staff Writer

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