5 ways our TV viewing habits changed during the pandemic…

Television is here to stay but the way we watch it is changing. Here are 5 things you need to know.

Television continues to have a central place in our home. Whether it’s bingeing on the sofa, background noise while you’re cooking, flat screen, 4k, HD, to the truly weird and wonderful (A TV picture frame anyone?) our love for home entertainment shows no sign of letting up.

In fact, it’s accelerating! With a surge in TV consumption during lockdown we turned to our big screens for a mixture of escapism or to just stave off boredom. But, whilst just a few years ago we’d reach for a DVD boxset, we’re now turning to streaming platforms for our binge-nights in, and for many those plastic cases are a mere relic from a bygone era.

So what does this mean for the future? Ofcom’s latest Media Nations Report helps us answer this question. Here are 5 key trends to look out for…

1. We still love TV

Television doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere. UK adults spent nearly a third of their waking hours watching TV and online video content in 2020.

Total screen time saw a daily average of five hours and 40 minutes, up 47 minutes on the previous year – that’s over half a day’s work for a normal 9am to 5pm shift.

But it may be time to rethink what we mean by the word ‘Television’. We’re no longer referring to the big screen in the corner of the room, but instead the content we enjoy. ‘Television’ can now be enjoyed on multiple devices. That leads us onto the next point…

2. The way we watch TV is changing

Television used to be very structured. Read the TV guide. Check when your programme was on. Set a reminder to sit down in front of the screen at the right time. We’d often plan our days around our favourite shows to make sure we were back home on time.

But how many of us still do this? Streaming has completely changed the game. For the first time, more households have a Netflix subscription than a paid TV account such as cable or satellite. Streaming services (Netflix, Amazon Prime etc.) were used by 60% of all UK households by the third quarter of 2020, up from 49% a year earlier.

One of the reasons streaming is so popular is the freedom to choose a time to watch a programme without being held hostage to the TV guide. Yes, big events such as the World Cup need to be watched ‘live’ in real time but, for day to day viewing, the flexibility of streaming has overtaken traditional terrestrial channels.

3. Young people are leading the charge

Whilst the average time spent watching traditional broadcast TV each day is just over three hours, this is mostly driven by people aged 45 and over.

Younger age groups spend far less time watching traditional TV, with those aged 16-24 watching only just over an hour of broadcast content a day. It’s no surprise that streaming platforms from Netflix to Disney+ typically target younger audiences.

Content is also being viewed across a multitude of devices from tablets and laptops, to smartphones (which is why screen sizes are getting bigger and bigger). Not only can you watch your programmes whenever you want, you can also choose to watch them wherever you want, perhaps during a daily commute on the train or the backseat of a car.

4. We’re creating our own TV

We often associate creating a TV show as a logistical and costly exercise which can only be undertaken by studios. But things have changed. TV programmes can be created at home using just a smartphone camera.

The number of people creating online content and vloggers posting to social media is testament to this. YouTube has held onto its crown as the go to platform. It remains the most popular user-generated online video service, with people spending an estimated 41 minutes per day watching videos on its channels.

5. Connectivity is the foundation

Like most things in our lives, the internet has a central role to play. From BBC iPlayer, Netflix to Disney+, connectivity is what brings it all alive. Today, nearly 80% of households have their TVs connected to the internet.

You might think your existing internet connection is fine for streaming TV but that won’t last for long. The speeds you need are changing and changing quickly. Remember when dial up used to be enough? Imagine trying to watch Disney+ that way today.

When 4K streaming across multiple devices, working from home, gaming online and downloading files all at the same time, suddenly your 50 Mbps connection isn’t enough.

That’s why we’re changing the way broadband is delivered across the East of England. Superfast broadband, also known as Fibre-To-The-Cabinet, contains Victorian copper cables which are not designed to deliver a fast broadband speed. The only solution is to build new full-fibre networks, free of copper, which can deliver 18 times faster speeds.

We’re accelerating the rollout of our full-fibre (we call it REAL FIBRE) networks. With build times of up to 18 months however, we’ve been working hard and already well underway with our rollout across the East of England. Click here to find out if we’re coming to your village and how you can get yourself future-ready.

Bonus facts

  • Some 29 of the 30 most watched titles on subscription services were on Netflix, including Bridgerton, The Dig, Behind her Eyes and Fate: The Winx Saga.
  • During the UK’s winter lockdowns, people sought to cheer themselves up by spending almost an hour a day watching comedy programmes.