TV screen time and video streaming soar during lockdown, Ofcom says

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UK adults spent nearly half their waking day watching TV and using online streaming services at the height of the coronavirus lockdown, according to a new Ofcom study.

Figures from the broadcast regulator show that during April, people spent on average six hours and 45 minutes each day – nearly 45 hours a week – watching TV and online video, up almost a third on last year.

Ofcom’s research said video streaming platforms such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime Video were the biggest factors behind the increase, with the amount of time spent on such services doubling during lockdown.

Disney+ was the biggest benefactor, and despite only launching in March, the service is now the third most popular video subscription streaming service in the UK, according to Ofcom’s figures, having moved past Now TV to sit behind only Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

This included a notable increase in new subscribers among older adults who had previously only watched broadcast TV – around one third (32%) of those aged 55 to 64 used a streaming platform during lockdown, up from 25% before the pandemic, Ofcom said.

Away from streaming, traditional broadcasters also achieved record viewing levels during the pandemic as demand for trusted news programmes grew.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s statement on the easing of lockdown restrictions in May had an average audience of more than 18.7 million people, while his initial announcement of lockdown on March 23 and the Queen’s address on the outbreak on April 5 both averaged more than 14 million viewers.

As a result, those three broadcasts have become the top three most-watched programmes of 2020 so far.

Ofcom’s research suggests that the adoption of streaming services is likely to continue, with the majority of adults who signed up to a service in lockdown saying they plan to keep their subscription in the months ahead.

Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s strategy and research group director, said: “Lockdown led to a huge rise in TV viewing and video streaming.

“The pandemic showed public service broadcasting at its best, delivering trusted news and UK content that viewers really value.

“But UK broadcasters face a tough advertising market, production challenges and financial uncertainty. So they need to keep demonstrating that value in the face of intense competition from streaming services.”

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