TBI Tech & Analysis: How the UK’s linear decline supports a streaming surge

The Crown

The way we watch content is changing fast as eyeballs shift from linear programming on TV’s to on-demand content online. Following last week’s deep dive on the US, this week Omdia analysts Rob Moyser, Adam Thomas and Samuel Nkwam explore what is changing in the UK.

Omdia’s annual Cross-Platform Viewing Time Report analyses TV and video consumption trends across the US, Australia, and seven markets in Europe: France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK.

In the latter of these, linear TV fell below a 50% share of total viewing last year, highlighting the changing habits as streaming and online content consumption is embraced.

The full-year data for 2022 indicates that the pandemic boost in viewing times will ultimately prove to be a temporary phenomenon. After posting a 6% decline in 2021, UK cross-platform viewing time fell by a further 4% in 2022 to reach 271.1 minutes per person per day.

The drop in linear TV viewing was the most significant feature of this decline with viewing down by more than 13 minutes, driven by a growing number of consumers preferring to stream or download content rather than watch live linear broadcasts.

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Linear viewing took 48% of total viewing. However, when time-shifted PVR viewing is added, linear remains the most popular way to watch TV in the UK, holding a combined viewing share of 57.6%.

The funeral of Queen Elizabeth II, broadcast across several networks, was the UK’s most-watched program in 2022. Beyond that special broadcast, World Cup soccer led the way: England vs. France was the year’s most-watched broadcast on a single channel.

Netflix & Prime Video drive streaming

While all traditional TV formats experienced viewing decline in 2022, the two online categories both saw growth. Online long-form viewing increased by 3.1 minutes to exceed 66 minutes per person per day. Online short-form viewing, meanwhile, increased by 2 minutes during the year to reach 34.3 minutes per person per day.

Increasing penetration of superfast/ultrafast broadband is facilitating the ongoing growth in online form viewing. SVOD services, led by Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, were behind much of this growth in long-form viewing time.


Though the global economic malaise has encouraged some players to become more cautious in their content spending plans, original programming is still the vital ingredient that drives customer subscription numbers (and viewing time), and SVOD providers continue to boost the volume of originals and exclusives available on their services.

Local original programming has played a key role in drawing strong audience figures on both SVOD and linear platforms, with many of Netflix’s UK-produced content, including The Crown, Top Boy and Bridgerton, appearing alongside global hits such as Stranger Things and Ozark in its most-watched programs list of the year.

Linear TV saw the fastest decline in viewing levels in 2022, with a 9.4% drop to 128.9 minutes. Also declining quickly was the pay-TV VOD category, which saw an 8% fall to 14.3 minutes.

This fall in viewing time was largely driven by pay-TV leader Sky, which is under pressure from online video alternatives.

Notwithstanding this, pay-TV VOD’s overall position in the UK is better than in many other similar markets, assisted by Sky UK’s heavy investment in its own local content, Sky Originals, which has helped propel it to the position of one of the largest pay-TV operators in Europe.

The excerpt above is from Omdia’s Cross-Platform Television Viewing Time Report – 2023, written by Rob Moyser, senior analyst for TV & online video, Adam Thomas, senior principal analyst for TV & online video, and Samuel Nkwam, research analyst for TV & online video. To read more, click here (subscription required). Omdia and TBI are both part of Informa Tech.

To learn more about the rapidly changing world of content consumption and how you can benefit from it, be sure to attend our exclusive Media & Entertainment Leaders Summit on 7 November, in partnership with Digital TV Europe and Omdia. Click here to learn how to attend.

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