A new report from Ofcom, Media Nations, looks at trends in how the UK population consume audiovisual and audio content. Considering questions such as how much we watch TV, how much we watch YouTube or how much we listen to podcasts. The report is a wealth of data, but at a top level reveals five trends in the way we consume AV and audio content in the UK that are important for brands and marketers to understand.

1. Broadcast continues to be an important source of AV, but we consume content from a wide range of sources

UK adults watch an average of 5 hours and 1 minute of AV content every day. 71% of this originated in broadcast and 58% was watched live on a TV set. Beyond broadcast content, YouTube accounts for the most minutes of AV content viewed per day – 29 minutes a day, compared with the 18 minutes watched on subscription video on demand (SVoD) services such as Netflix or NOW TV.

Whilst the proportion of AV consumption that is live broadcast TV continues to fall, it does continue to be a significant proportion of our viewing in the UK. And the overwhelming majority of our AV consumption is done on a TV set (over 81%). This is important as the way we interact with content is different on a TV compared with, for example, a mobile telephone. We are less likely to click out from VOD on a TV (for example) than from a mobile.

2. YouTube is a significant source of content, especially for 16-34 year olds

When we look at a younger audience 16-34 year olds we see that their overall AV consumption is down compared to all UK adults (4 hours 48 minutes compared to 5 hours and 1 minute). However consumption of content on a TV set is down even more – accounting for just 62% of viewing compared to 81% of viewing for all UK adults on a TV set.

Instead, this younger audience is consuming a significantly larger proportion of content on YouTube – 59 minutes every day, 20% of all their AV consumption. SVoD Services account for another 10% of viewing.

However, it is important to not misattribute this viewing to ‘vloggers’ or other influencers. The majority of YouTube viewing for this audience is music videos. So this time spent ‘watching’ YouTube videos could actually be just using YouTube as a music service.

3. SVoD services are now an important part of the media mix in the UK

11.1 million households in the UK (39.3% of all UK households) now have a subscription to at least one of Netflix, Amazon Prime or NOW TV. A similar number to households who use a broadcaster video on demand (BVoD) service such as iPlayer or All4.

And half of these households subscribe to more than one of the main SVoD services in the UK – 29% subscribe to both Amazon Prime and Netflix for example. 12% of households with at least one SVoD service actually subscribe to all three main services in the UK – Netflix, Amazon Prime and NOW TV.

This rise in SVoD services are driven not by people watching them on mobile or laptop devices, but by people watching them on connected and smart TVs. Again we are seeing that whilst we might consume content from multiple sources, in the UK we continue to see the TV set as the main device on which we watch content.

4. New programming may drive subscriptions, but it isn’t what we watch

Much of the drive for subscriptions to SVoD services in the UK has been led by new or exclusive programming. Although what we actually watch on these services is very different. The most commonly viewed programme on SVoD in the UK is Friends, the second most commonly viewed is the Grand Tour – a reboot of an old BBC format, Top Gear.

So whilst we might sign-up for services based on new or exclusive programming, we actually consume older, sometimes nostalgic, content when we actually use the service.

This tells us much about the kind of content that we might consume online. It is similar to the viewing patterns we are seeing on YouTube – where the most commonly viewed content is not new, vlogger content; rather we are watching and rewatching our favourite music videos.

5. Despite the plethora of home content sources, cinema continues to grow in the UK

There is an assumption that when new ways to do things take hold we abandon the old ways. This is, almost always, the wrong way of analysing the situation. When new ways come along we are less likely to abandon our old ways of doing things, rather these old ways adapt and change.

For example, there could be an assumption that the increase in video consumption at home would mean we are less likely to go to a cinema to watch a film in public. But this is not the case. In the UK, box office revenues were up 2.5% in 2017 to reach a new high. The cinema viewing experience is still very much in demand in the UK in spite of the rise in SVoD services. We’ve not replaced one way of doing things with a new way; rather we have found a role for both types of AV content and both continue to grow.

Matt Rhodes

About Matt Rhodes

Head of Digital Strategy for work. Marathon runner and charity trustee for fun.

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