UK adults spent 40% of their time in front of a screen at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
In its annual survey of Britain’s media habits, the regulator Ofcom found that audiences were spending twice as much time watching streaming services as they were only a year ago. 34 minutes in 2019, and 1 hour 11 minutes in April 2020.
The average Briton was spending an average of six hours and 25 minutes each day watching TV services.
The lockdown led to 12 million new subscriptions and Disney overtaking NOW TV as the third most-popular paid-for streaming platform. Since launching in the UK on the first day of lockdown Disney has attracted 16% of online adults by early July, surpassing NOW TV (10%) and behind Netflix (45%) and Amazon Prime Video (39%).
The public service broadcasters – the BBC, ITV, STV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 – briefly achieved their highest combined monthly share of broadcast TV viewing in more than six years in March (59%), driven by a demand for trusted news programmes as the pandemic grew.
Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s Strategy and Research Group Director, said: “Lockdown led to a huge rise in TV viewing and video streaming.
“The pandemic showed public service broadcasting at its best, delivering trusted news and UK content that viewers really value. But UK broadcasters face a tough advertising market, production challenges and financial uncertainty. So they need to keep demonstrating that value in the face of intense competition from streaming services.”
As lockdown measures were eased towards the end of June, the uplift in viewing to video streaming services and other non-broadcast content held steady, at 71% higher than the year before.
In contrast, by the end of June, traditional broadcast TV viewing declined from its peak in early lockdown – falling 44 minutes to 3 hours 2 minutes per day.
Broadcast TV viewing is now comparably lower than it was in 2014-2017, although it remains 11% higher than this time last year.