UK’s Ofcom Charts Demise of Broadcast TV

The UK’s Ofcom has delivered its latest Media Nations report and it is full of interesting detail on the watching and listening behaviours of the British public over the past decade. It’s great reading for streaming services but the future’s pretty grim for broadcast TV.

As a bit of background for non-UK residents, Ofcom is the regulation and competition authority in UK for all communication services, including TV, radio, telephony, broadband, post and so on. It’s an abbreviation of “Office of Communications” and is roughly equivalent to US FCC. The main terrestrial broadcasters are BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and 5. Sky provides satellite services and channels, with Virgin and BT providing cable-based services. Radio is provided by BBC, Bauer and Global plus many smaller stations.

The full report, Media Nations UK 2023, runs to 72 pages and it’s a goldmine of information on the changing habits of the nation with loads of good graphics. It’s definitely worth a read but here are a few highlights

  • Broadcast, scheduled or linear TV is in significant decline. Viewing fell by 12% year on year and is 16% lower than pre-pandemic. Programmes that attract more than four million viewers have halved since 2014. In 2012, under 25s watched around 150 minutes of TV per day. In 2022, it was about 40 minutes.
  • Two-thirds of UK households have at least one video streaming service on demand, such as Netflix or Disney+. It’s a slight fall over the previous year which suggests video streaming has reached maturity. Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ are the top 3 subscription services, with BBC’s iPlayer and YouTube taking the top spots for the free services.
  • TikTok, YouTube and Snapchat consume nearly an hour per day for those aged 15-24. Facebook stays busy with older age groups.
  • Radio remains consistently popular with 88% of adults listening for an average of 20 hours per week, though under-35s are more likely to stream music. BBC2 is the top radio station with 26% of adults listening in.
  • Spotify is the easy winner in the music streaming business taking over 70% of the adult market. Apple Music comes in 2nd with a paltry 8%.
  • For podcasts, 11 million adults (nearly 20% of the audience) listen to podcasts with 68% listening to five podcasts or less per week. While podcast listening is on the rise in nearly all age groups, those aged 15-24 have seen a decline in the last year.
  • Smart speakers are in 42% of homes, with Amazon’s Echo the easy market leader at 79%. Google Home is next at 15%.
  • The report also notes the use of AI DJs and synthetic voices as an incoming trend, highlighting Switch Radio using Chat GPT to create weather bulletins.