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The UK is hooked on TV streaming services – but not as much as you'd think

A still from the Netflix TV show Maniac
(Image credit: Netflix)

Do you subscribe to a TV streaming service like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, or Now TV? If you're reading this, probably – as a new report released by Ofcom has shown that near enough half of homes in the UK are signed up to some kind of streaming service.

The communications regulator releases an annual report on the state of the nation's media consumption, and the 2019 version has plenty to say about our swiftly changing viewing habits.

The number of households using and subscribing to TV streaming services went up from 11.2m (39%) last year to a total 13.3m (47%) in 2019. While a few percent here and there seems like a small increase, it brings us that step closer to a streaming-dominated landscape. 

Traditional TV is dead, huh?

Maybe not! One of the interesting stats to come out of the report is that, even as streaming services gain momentum across generations – with an unsurprisingly larger presence among those younger 16-24 folk – most households aren't trying to replace their traditional broadcast television entirely, using the likes of Netflix instead to supplement their existing viewing habits.

Ofcom's press release on the report noted that traditional TV viewing still accounted for around 70% of TV time in UK households – just over three hours per day, on average – with that figure dropping by 11 minutes in the past year.

The trend isn't just towards online TV: it's for more TV overall. The number of total streaming subscriptions in the UK rose much faster than the number of households, from 15.6m to 19.1m in a single three-month period.

TV broadcasters are also fighting tooth and nail to stay in the business, with the report noting that "the UK’s public service broadcasters – BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and S4C – showed more than 100 times more original, homegrown shows than the overseas streaming platforms".

Ofcom's strategy and research group director, Yih-Choung Teh, added that, “the way we watch TV is changing faster than ever before. In the space of seven years, streaming services have grown from nothing to reach nearly half of British homes".

“But traditional broadcasters still have a vital role to play, producing the kind of brilliant UK programmes that overseas tech giants struggle to match."