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Nearly a third of households say that streaming is the primary way TV and films are viewed at home

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Nearly a third (30%) of households state that streaming via the internet is the primary way that TV programmes and films are viewed at home, according to the second report from EY’s annual digital home survey of 2,500 UK consumers.

The report, which focuses on household viewing habits, finds that this figure jumps to 64% for viewers aged between 18-24 years old. Marketing campaigns by global streaming providers, combined with popular high-quality local content, has helped power the uptake of streaming services across all age groups.

However, over half of households surveyed (51%) say they mainly watch TV programmes from the five traditional channels and, despite the range of content options on offer, the popularity of the incumbent channels is even greater than it was in 2017 (up from 46%).

Martyn Whistler, Global Lead Media and Entertainment Analyst at EY says: “It’s no surprise the UK is becoming a nation of streamers, but our research shows just how enthusiastically households have embraced it. Over the next 12-18 months we will see the launch of new streaming services to further sate the UK’s appetite for content. In addition, younger age groups look to continue that trend with 63% of 18-24 year olds believing they get better value from their streaming services than from pay-TV.

“However, reports of the demise of traditional TV seem a little premature. Our research shows their popularity is undiminished, with viewers watching them more now than in previous years. The traditional channels are still the bedrock for household viewing and demonstrate the creative strength of the UK.”

Too much of a good thing?

The enduring popularity of traditional channels alongside the mix of new services and formats is causing confusion and leaving consumers frustrated about tracking their content choices. Nearly a quarter (24%) of all households find it difficult to track content across services, platforms and apps. Significantly, for those aged 18-24 years old, who are more likely to engage with multiple content providers, the figure rises to 39%.

However, once consumers have settled on their favourite TV programmes while streaming they are generally happy with the quality. Among all channels and content services in the UK, including traditional channels, the leading subscription streaming service ranks third in terms of the best quality of content (13%), up from 10% in 2017. Notably, among those aged 18-24 years old over a quarter (27%) believe this provider has the best content of all services and channels.

Whistler adds: “Big budget investments in content seem to be paying off. Major streaming services are spending millions per episode on original series. It’s great news for content producers and it’s no surprise that audiences increasingly appreciate the quality on offer. But it puts pressure on traditional content businesses, which don’t have the same budgets and need to find new and innovative ways to compete.”

Streaming customers becoming more discerning

With the rise of streaming services alongside traditional broadcast models, there is a distinction in the mind of consumers on the amount of advertising they are willing to experience on different platforms. Leading streaming services are less reliant on advertising, or avoid it entirely, and this is reflected in consumers’ attitudes. Thirty-eight percent of households are much more willing to put up with adverts on broadcast television than streaming services, and this figure jumps to 54% for those aged 18-24 years old.

In addition, as traditional channels evolve their streaming platforms they can also take hope from audiences’ willingness to pay a premium to stream catch-up TV without advertising. At the right price point, 18% of households agree that they would pay a premium to stream catch-up TV without advertising, up from 16% in 2017.

AI is key in getting the right content to audiences

Praveen Shankar, EY’s Head of Technology, Media and Telecommunications for the UK & Ireland, says: “Our survey demonstrates that audiences are struggling to keep track of their favourite content across various platforms and they are confused by the choices available to them. Technology, Media and Telecoms (TMT) companies need to move away from programme guides and big budget marketing and build artificial intelligence (AI) enabled recommendation engines to push content. This will improve user experience, reduce costs and maximise assets.

“In addition, content providers need to stay focused on their audience. Customers vary significantly in how they consume content, so personalising experiences through data and insights is paramount. Only a deeper understanding of preference can ensure that content companies are able to unlock premium services and enable them to be strategic in how they invest in, utilise, price and bundle technologies together to reach audiences in the home.”

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