Digital platforms turning UK into a nation of binge viewers

UK adults are increasingly watching multiple episodes of TV shows in a single sitting, thanks to online catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer and subscription services such as Netflix.

Ofcom’s annual Communications Market Report 2017, which was released last week, showed that eight in ten adults in the UK (79%) – or 40 million people – use these new digital platforms to watch multiple episodes of a series in one sitting. In fact, one third (35%) of us do so every week, and more than half (55%) do it monthly.

Driving this trend is the availability of faster home internet speeds, a rise in the number of connected TVs, and increased take-up of smartphones and tablets.

Lindsey Fussell, Consumer Group Director at Ofcom, said: “Technology has revolutionised the way we watch TV. The days of waiting a week for the next episode are largely gone, with people finding it hard to resist watching multiple episodes around the house or on the move.”

Binge-watching is most popular among young people: Ofcom found that more than half (53%) of those aged 12-15 enjoy weekly watch-a-thons, compared to just 16% of over-65s. For that older age group, more than half (59%) prefer a TV series to be released in the traditional manner, week by week.

For those who binge-watch, most (70%) find this type of viewing relaxing and enjoyable. However, around a third (32%) of adults admit that the temptation to watch another episode has cost them sleep and left them feeling tired, while more than a quarter (27%) say they have neglected household chores.

Furthermore, perhaps as a result, many people are keen to cut down on their TV viewing. More than a third (35%) of binge viewers and almost half (47%) of young adults aged 16-24 are trying to watch less TV, for example by rationing their viewing (19%), finding an alternative hobby (10%), or even cancelling a TV subscription (4%).

Ofcom also pointed out that, despite the rise of “box set Britain”, nine in ten people watch live TV every week and live television still has the power to bring the whole family together.


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