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Young Viewers Dedicate a Third of Their Viewing Time to On-Demand Services

Eighteen to 24-year-olds are increasingly turning to on-demand services to get their fill of televised entertainment. In fact, due to the popularity of services such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon – which have seen their young audiences boosted by a third – live TV viewing amongst 16 to 24-year-olds has fallen by a quarter. So what does this mean for traditional broadcasters?

A third of all television watching by 16 to 24-year-olds is now takes place via on-demand services, according to Ofcom. At the same time, live TV accounts for just 36 percent of daily viewing amongst the same age group – a 14 percentage-point decrease in just two years.


With seven in 10 aged between 15 and 34 now accessing on-demand services, it’s clear that on-demand is, at least amongst the younger generations, presenting a very real challenge to traditional TV. Indeed, whilst the average Brit watches 3 hours and 36 minutes of TV a day, Ofcom’s report highlights a “generational gap” in the services these viewers choose to use, with live still TV accounting for 83 percent of viewing time amongst over-65s.

But, while the older generations may never embrace on-demand services, the emerging trend highlights the fact that, 10 or 20 years down the line, live television may become all but redundant.

In a world filled with tablets, laptops, and smartphones, consumers have come to expect not to have their preferences constrained by a rigid network schedule. Live television, much like radio, just can’t meet this requirement, and so viewers are switching to alternatives in droves.


Today, viewers aged 16-24 spend 20 percent of their time watching paid on-demand services, 14 percent viewing short online video clips on sites such as YouTube, 13 percent watching free on-demand TV and films, and six percent watching DVD and Blu-Ray. And, as the quality and amount of content that these mediums provide increases, we can only expect that figure to increase.

As viewer numbers continue to fall for traditional television broadcasters, we can expect to see continued cuts to UK originated content. In 2015, UK public service broadcasters spent £2.5bn on such content, a real term decrease of 23 percent from 2005 (when £3.26bn was spent). Music and arts as well as children’s programmes were hit hardest, with spend dropping 14 percent on the previous year for the former, and 45 percent on a decade ago for the latter. Original UK comedy also fell, by 4 percent on the previous year.

The question now is whether the industry’s new on-demand players will pick up the slack. With Netflix alone boasting an impressive catalogue of children’s shows, live music, and original comedy, it would appear that they are. After all, it’s not the content that’s turning people off, it’s the medium.

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