NEWS17 August 2022

Media viewing generation gap reaches all-time high

Leisure & Arts News Trends UK Youth

UK – Younger adults now watch almost seven times less scheduled TV than those aged 65 and over, according to a survey by Ofcom.

Young person choosing a streaming service on tablet device

Those aged 16 to 24 spend less than an hour ( 53 minutes) in front of broadcast TV in an average day, equivalent to a fall of two-thirds over the past 10 years.

In contrast, those aged 65 and over still spend around a third of their day enjoying broadcast TV, sitting down for almost six hours ( 5 hours and 50 minutes) daily, a figure that is slightly higher than a decade ago.

The changes in younger adults’ habits reflect the soaring popularity of US-based, on-demand streaming services. Around a fifth of homes ( 5.2 million) subscribe to all three of the most popular platforms – Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ – costing around £300 per year.

Nine in ten 18 to 24-year-olds bypass TV channels and head straight to streaming, on-demand and social video services when looking for something to watch, with Netflix the most common destination. However, six in 10 ( 59%) 55 to 64-year-olds and 76% of those aged 65 and over still turn to TV channels first.

The rising cost of living has impacted on streaming service subscriptions, with numbers falling by more than 350,000 to 19.2 million.

However, cancellations do not necessarily represent customers that have been lost for good. Ofcom’s survey of subscribers who cancelled earlier this year found that almost three-quarters ( 73%) said they thought they would resubscribe.

Looking at public service broadcasters’ (PSB) catch-up TV services, 82% of people polled said they had used a PSB on-demand service in the past six months, roughly the same proportion who said they used at least one streaming service ( 83%).

Six in ten ( 59%) viewers said they used these platforms to watch channels or programmes live at the time they are broadcast.

As a result, the average time spent watching services such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and All 4 increased to 15 minutes per day, up by three minutes per person per day, bucking the trend of post-pandemic declines in viewing time.

BBC iPlayer has a high level of satisfaction across all age groups, with over four in five ( 81%) of those who had used it recently saying they were satisfied with the service.

Commenting on the findings, Ofcom director of market intelligence Ian Macrae said: “The streaming revolution is stretching the TV generation gap, creating a stark divide in the viewing habits of younger and older people.

“Traditional broadcasters face tough competition from online streaming platforms. They are partly meeting [this challenge] through the popularity of their own on-demand player apps, while broadcast television is still the place to go for big events that bring the nation together, such as the Euro final or the jubilee celebrations.”