UK broadcast TV viewing sees record drop, says Ofcom

The decline in broadcast TV viewing in the UK accelerated last year, with weekly reach of experiencing its biggest ever annual drop.

According to media watchdog Ofcom’s latest Media Nations report, broadcast TV’s weekly reach fell from 83% in 2021 to 79% in 2022, the biggest-ever annual drop. The long-term decline in viewing of broadcast TV also continued, falling by 12% year on year and was 16% lower than pre-pandemic levels.

The decline in linear viewing of broadcasters’ content was largely offset by growth in digital consumption.

Broadcasters’ combined platforms including linear TV channels, TV recordings and their on-demand services, maintained a 60% share of total video viewing from 2021 to 2022, while use of broadcaster video-on-demand (BVOD) services continued to grow.

This may partly have been fed by a decline in linear broadcast viewing by older people who remain loyal to broadcasters’ content.

Over-64s watched 8% less broadcast TV in 2022 than in 2021 and viewing was 6% lower than in 2019, the last pre-pandemic year. Older viewers are now using streaming services, with take-up of Disney+ among online over-64s rising from 7% in 2022 to 12% in 2023.

Despite that rise among older people, SVOD viewing also may have declined overall, according to the report – although Ofcom cautioned that a change in methodology meant it was difficult to make precise year-on-year comparisons. Some 66% of UK households reported using an SVOD service in Q1 2023, down from a peak of 68% in Q1 2022.

Younger audiences meanwhile continued to peel away from broadcast. Broadcast viewing among those aged 4-34 declined by 21% year-on-year.
BVOD and video-sharing platforms growing

Despite the decline in linear broadcast, BVOD platforms, along with video-sharing platforms such as YouTube, were the only forms of viewing where time spent increased in 2022.

Ofcom also found that the UK’s PSBs increased their share of the declining broadcast TV pie over time, with their combined sahre standing at 58% in 2022, up from 55% in 2019, at the expense of multichannel pay TV services.

Total commercial TV and online video revenue increased by 4.5% in 2022 to £17.3 billion, driven by online video services, whose market share rose to 36%, compared to 15% in 2017.

However, combined revenue for the commercial PSBs, digital multichannel providers and pay TV operators falling by 1.8%^ to £11.1 billion. While revenues of ITV, Channel 4 and Channel5 declined, their combined total of £2.3 billion was still the second-highest annual total since 2017.

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