UK broadcast TV viewing plummets | Ratings/Measurement | News | Rapid TV News
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A report from the UK’s broadcast and communications regulator Ofcom has revealed an alarming trend showing broadcast TV’s weekly audience reach has seen the steepest annual decline since records began, while older audiences’ daily viewing drops at fastest rate ever.
Media Nations 2023 NR 3Aug2023
The Media Nations 2023 report fundamentally found that the media diets of viewers and listeners in the UK appear to be more diverse and fragmented than ever. Public service broadcasters still dominate most-watched list with valued national TV moments, even though the number of TV programmes pulling in over 4 million viewers has halved since 2014. There was an even sharper drop (82%) in the number of broadcast transmissions generating more than six million TV viewers, from 1,172 in 2014 to 213 in 2022.

“Our traditional broadcasters are seeing steep declines in viewing to their scheduled, live programmes – including among typically loyal older audiences – and soaps and news programmes don’t have the mass-audience pulling power they once had.” said Yih-Choung Teh, group director, strategy and research at Ofcom, commenting on the the findings. “But despite this, public service broadcasters are still unrivalled in bringing the nation together at important cultural and sporting moments, while their on-demand players are seeing positive growth as they digitalise their services to meet audience needs.”

While the number of programmes with large audiences is down across all genres, these declines are a reflection of fewer people watching the main early and late evening TV news bulletins, as well as a steady decline in viewing figures for the three most popular soaps: Coronation Street, EastEnders and Emmerdale. Since 2014, news programmes attracting more than 4 million viewers was down 72%, from 537 to 148 programmes, while mass audience soap episodes are down 42%, from 754 to 438 programmes.

And as competition for the nation’s attention intensifies, Ofcom found that the proportion of viewers who tune in to traditional broadcast TV each week has seen the sharpest ever annual fall – from 83% in 2021 to 79% in 2022. This is defined as 28-day consolidated viewing on a TV set, which includes viewing of programmes at the time they were broadcast (live viewing) as well as from recordings and through online broadcaster video-on-demand (BVOD) services like BBC iPlayer, ITVX and Sky Go/Sky TV On Demand) up to 28 days after first transmitted.

The largest declines in weekly reach were seen among 16-24s - falling from 82% in 2017 to 54% in 2022, with a six-percentage-point decrease last year- and children aged 4-15. Viewing among the later was down from 87% in 2017 to 60% in 2022, down five percentage points year-on-year.

BBC One remained the only channel to reach more than half of the viewing population every week. Although BBC One continues to have the highest weekly reach of all TV channels (58%), this was 12 percentage points lower than in 2017.
A similar decline is evident in the average time that viewers spend watching broadcast TV each day – down from 2 hours 59 minutes in 2021, to 2 hours 38 minutes in 2022 (12%). Ofcom noted that for the first time there was evidence of a significant decline in average daily broadcast TV viewing among ‘core’ older audiences (aged 65+) – a drop of 8% year on year, and down 6% on pre-pandemic levels. Before the pandemic, broadcast TV viewing among the over 64 age group was generally stable.

Despite the continuing decline of traditional broadcast TV viewing, BBC One (20%) and ITV1 (13%) are still the top two first destinations for viewers when they turn on their TV, with Netflix coming in third (6%). In addition, watching broadcasters’ content - either live, on recorded playback or streamed on-demand – still accounts for the greatest proportion of all time spent each day watching TV and video at 60%, 2 hours 41 minutes per person, per day.

Ofcom also found that older viewers were becoming more likely to take up streaming services, although household take-up of these services overall appears to be plateauing. Indeed, two-thirds (66%) of UK households reported using a subscription video-on-demand service in Q1 2023, down from a peak of 68% in Q1 2022. The proportion of over-64s subscribing to Disney+, for example, increased from 7% in 2022 to 12% in 2023.