The average adult spent just over 2,000 hours watching television and online videos, according to Ofcom’s annual study of the nation’s media habits.
That meant Brits were spending around one third of 2020 watching something on their screens. With people across the UK under some form of lockdown restrictions for most of last year, viewers clocked up a daily average of five hours and 40 minutes. That’s 47 minutes more than in 2019.
Ofcom says the change was mainly driven by people spending almost twice as much time watching subscription streaming services (one hour and five minutes per day) such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+.
Meanwhile, UK subscriptions to streaming services climbed to 31 million last year, up from 20 million in 2019. By September 2020, three in every five UK homes were signed up, compared to half of homes a year earlier.
By April 2021, streaming service providers were offering UK viewers a combined total of over 115,000 hours of content. Amazon Prime video’s catalogue was the largest at over 41,000 hours, followed by Netflix at around 38,000.
Showing how the US streamers dwarf UK operators: All 4, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and My5 combined offer 37,000 hours.
It remains to be seen how much of this shift in viewing, and how many subscriptions are maintained as some degree of normality returns.
Live, linear broadcast viewing saw a decline in the past year, but major events and series continued to draw in viewers. The most-watched programme so far this year is the Euro 2020 final between England and Italy. It achieved a combined audience of over 22 million UK viewers on BBC One and ITV. The semi-final between England and Denmark had the highest audience on a single channel, with 18.3 million viewers watching ITV. BBC One’s Line of Duty series finale (16.4 million UK viewers) and ITV’s Oprah Winfrey interview with the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (14.9 million UK viewers) came in third and fourth.