SVOD Subs Top Pay-TV in the United Kingdom

The number of consumers in the United Kingdom subscribing to an over-the-top video service such as Netflix or Amazon Prime Video has – for the first time – surpassed those opting for linear pay-TV, according to new data from Ofcom, the communications regulator in the U.K.

Subscriptions to the three most popular online streaming services – Netflix, Prime Video and Sky’s Now TV – reached 15.4 million in the first quarter, overtaking pay-TV subs at 15.1 million.

The amount of time consumers spent watching broadcast television continues to decline. In 2017, the average was 3 hours 22 minutes a day, down nine minutes (4.2%) from 2016, and 38 minutes (15.7%) since 2012.

There were steeper declines among children and viewers aged 16 to 34, meaning consumers over the age of 65 watched four times as much broadcast television as children in 2017.

“Today’s research finds that what we watch and how we watch it are changing rapidly, which has profound implications for UK television, Sharon White, CEO at Ofcom, said in a statement.

The regulator found daily viewing time across all devices stands at 5 hours one minute, of which two-thirds (three hours 33 minutes or 71%) was broadcast content, and 1 hour 28 minutes was non-broadcast content.

However, among 16- to 34-year-olds, total daily viewing time in 2017 was 4 hours 48 minutes, of which less than half (two hours 11 minutes or 46%) was to broadcast content, with just under an hour per day spent watching content on YouTube.

“We have seen a decline in revenue for pay TV, a fall in spending on new programs by our public service broadcasters, and the growth of global video streaming giants. These challenges cannot be underestimated,” White said.

Indeed, the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5’s £2.5bn combined spending on original, UK-made programs in 2017 represented a record low – and is £1bn (28%) less than the 2004 peak of £3.4bn. An increase in funding from third parties towards the cost of program-making has partly helped to offset this decline.

“But UK broadcasters have a history of adapting to change,” said White. “By making the best British programs and working together to reach people who are turning away from TV, our broadcasters can compete in the digital age.”


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