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Live TV viewing falling quickly

News, 13 July 2016

LONDON: Live TV viewing continues to fall, according to Ofcom, which also notes a widening gap between the viewing habits of the youngest and oldest audiences.

In its PSB Annual Research Report 2016, the regulator reported that the main public service broadcasting (PSB) channels – defined as the BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5, the holders of the Channel 3 licences (ITV, STV and UTV), and S4C – were watched by 84% of the population aged over four years old on a weekly basis.

But it the proportion of total viewing time taken by live TV among adults, based on its Digital Day diary research, has dropped six percentage points between 2014 and 2016, from 69% to 63%.

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The decline was starker among younger age groups. Just 36%* of the total viewing of 16-24 year olds is live TV, a 14 percentage point drop in two years. And while just under half (48%) of 25-34 year olds' viewing is live TV, that was 13 percentage points down on 2014.

More than half (55%) of 35-44 year olds' viewing time is with live TV but that proportion is also shrinking rapidly, down 12 percentage points over the two years.

Smaller declines were registered for 45-54 year-olds (down six percentage points to 63%) and 55-64 year-olds (down eight percentage points to 72%); only the over-65s were spending a greater proportion of their viewing time with live TV (up one percentage point to 83%).

Longer-term BARB data shows that individuals in the UK watched 3 hours 36 minutes of measured broadcast TV in a typical day in 2015. This was 11% less than the 2010 figure but among 16-24 year olds and children the decrease was significantly greater, at more than 25%.

The main reason for the decline of live TV is the easy availability of on-demand services – those from PSB channels as well as OTT suppliers like Netflix and Amazon.

Younger viewers have particularly embraced these services, Ofcom noted, with one third of all viewing among 16-24s being spent on on-demand services in 2016.

Viewing to paid on-demand services has especially increased, it added, rising 14 percentage points to 20% in two years.


* This story has been updated to correct a misleading interpretation of Ofcom's statistics.

Data sourced from Ofcom; additional content by Warc staff