Nearly a third of waking hours spent on TV and streaming, Ofcom says

  • By Jane Wakefield
  • Technology reporter

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

Our viewing habits changed in lockdown with many people turning to streaming services

UK adults spent nearly a third of their waking hours watching TV and online video content in 2020, according to a report from regulator Ofcom.

Screen time, spurred on by pandemic lockdowns, was a daily average of five hours and 40 minutes, up 47 minutes on the previous year.

For the first time, more households had a Netflix subscription than a paid TV account such as cable or satellite.

And nearly 80% of households now have their TVs connected to the internet.

The Media Nations Report, which Ofcom compiles annually, found that Covid-19 restrictions were the main drivers for the increase in screen time, especially for on-demand content.

It helped the UK's public service broadcasters secure some of their highest TV viewing figures for five years.

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Nearly a third of UK adult internet users now regularly use TikTok

But the highest growth was seen in video-on-demand, with time spent on services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video almost doubling in 2020 to an estimated one hour and five minutes per person per day.

Such services were used by 60% of all UK households by the third quarter of 2020, up from 49% a year earlier.

YouTube remained the most popular user-generated online video service, with people spending an estimated 41 minutes per day watching videos on its channels.

But Chinese-owned video app TikTok is also gaining in popularity and was being used by 31% of adult internet users by March 2021.

Just for laughs

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Image caption,

Comedy provided much-needed light relief during winter lockdowns

Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom's group director of research, said: "TV and online video have proved an important antidote to lockdown life, with people spending a third of their waking hours last year glued to screens for news and entertainment.

"The pandemic undoubtedly turbo-charged viewing to streaming services, with three in five UK homes now signed up."

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.

And during the UK's winter lockdowns, people sought to cheer themselves up by spending almost an hour a day watching comedy programmes.

Smart speakers

The average time spent watching traditional broadcast TV each day was just over three hours, but this was mostly driven by people aged 45 and over.

Younger age groups spent far less time on linear TV, with those aged 16-24 only spending just over an hour watching broadcast content, slightly down from the figures in 2019.

Other findings from the report include:

  • half of adults now claim to have a smart speaker in their home
  • listening to podcasts appeared to slow during the pandemic, perhaps because fewer people were commuting
  • music streaming did not appear to benefit from lockdowns, staying steady or dropping depending on age, with the biggest dip coming from 35 to 44-year-olds