Use of online pay-to-watch TV surges ahead

Image source, Netflix
Image caption,
More families are paying for internet-streamed movies and TV shows

The use of commercial video streaming services has surged ahead in Great Britain, according to official figures.

Close to half of all adults said they had watched Netflix, Now TV, Amazon Prime Video or a similar internet-based service over the past three months.

That compares to less than a third of respondents in 2016, the last time the figure was given.

The data is contained in the Office for National Statistics' annual Internet Access and Use report.

The study also indicates that the percentage of households with some kind of internet access has not changed since last year, remaining at 90%.

But it does suggest that usage has increased, with 86% of over-16s reporting that they use the net daily or almost every day. The prior year, the figure was 80%.

In addition, for the first time the survey says that 100% of households with children living in them have internet access.

Sending and receiving emails remains the most popular task, with 84% of adults saying they had done this over the past quarter.

But the activities that saw the biggest gains over the past two years were:

  • watching video-on-demand from commercial services - 46% had done so over the last three months, up from 29% in 2016
  • watching videos from YouTube and similar platforms - 62%, up from 47%
  • listening to net-streamed music - 58%, up from 49%
  • internet banking - 69%, up from 60%
  • selling goods or services over the internet - 25%, up from 18%

One media industry analyst said the growing popularity of online TV had meant providers were having to adapt their offerings.

"If you look at the breakdown of who is using these services, it's starting to bleed outside the younger tech-savvy audiences and getting traction among older groups as well," commented Tom Harrington from Enders Analysis.

"You can see that reflected in the types of programming being made available, with Netflix and others commissioning original shows pitched at more mature audiences."

He added, however, that the market was set to become more competitive.

Sky is set to make all its content available online; Apple is expected to launch a TV subscription service soon; and Disney may expand the content available via its DisneyLife app following the takeover of 21st Century Fox.

Health v gaming

The ONS report also points to some differences in internet use between the sexes.

Women appear to be more engaged with social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, with 69% saying they had recently used them. By contrast the figure for men was 60%.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
A higher proportion of women reported making video or voice calls over the net, but a greater percentage of men said they streamed music

However, while 69% of men said they had recently watched videos on YouTube or a similar service, the figure for women was 56%.

The study also finds women are more likely to have reported searching online for health-related information, while it seems men are more likely to have downloaded and played video games.

The data is based on answers given to the ONS' Opinions and Lifestyle Survey between January and April. The sample size was 2,750 people.