Lead Forensics

Ofcom Media Nations 2022 report: key takeaways

30 August 2022


It’s a been a funny year for the UK advertising industry so far. The cost-of-living crisis, war in Ukraine, and political upheaval have sowed plenty of uncertainty. Yet, ad spend remains buoyant, with brands learning the lessons from previous economic downturns.

Nevertheless, understanding how and where audiences are consuming their media is vital when it comes to strategy. Enter, right on cue, the Ofcom Media Nations report 2022.

Here, we unpack the key takeaways for your business.

Live TV endures, but it’s hold continues to weaken

No one really expected the sky-high viewing of TV and video content during those dog days of the pandemic to be maintained, and this has proved to be the case. The average person is now watching 5 hours 16 minutes of video content a day across all devices, down 25 minutes compared to 2020’s figures.

This doesn’t tell the whole story, however. Because, though live and recorded Broadcaster TV has seen its share of viewing fall from 61% to 59%, Broadcaster VOD increased by two percentage points to 8%.

While these top-line percentage jolts appear small, they do point to a tectonic shift that, having been slowed by two years of social restrictions, is inexorably in motion once again.

The knights in shining armour for live TV, of course, are older demographics. Adults aged 65+ spend a third of their waking day watching Broadcast TV; moreover, 60% of 55-64s and 75% of those aged 65+ still view the TV schedule as their first port of call.

Younger viewers are key drivers of the viewing decline

And the sky is blue, right? Sure, you don’t need to be a prophet to read the runes, here; we already know that the generation gap is widening. But again, there’s some interesting sub-text to this headline.

For the first time since 2017, 16-34s are now watching less SVOD – 11 minutes less, to be precise – while concurrently, their viewing of BVOD content has increased by 3 minutes.

The likes of All4, Sky On-Demand and ITVX (nee Hub) should, indeed, all feel pretty smug with themselves, as this is very much a dink in an otherwise flattening curve. Younger viewers are watching 30 minutes less TV and video content across the board – and seven times less scheduled TV than older generations – with YouTube and SVOD now accounting for over half (53%) of all that viewing, despite decreases for both.

Want to feel really old? 16-24s are now viewing more TikTok content (58 minutes) than live TV (53 minutes) on the daily.

Is SVOD really at cross-roads?

You may be familiar with Robert Johnson, a Blues musician who, imaginative types will tell you, made a pact with the devil at a fork in the road to achieve his success.

Granted, this tale is besieged by one or two issues around legitimacy. It does, however, make for a nifty little analogy when it comes to the position Netflix, Amazon Instant Video and Disney+ find themselves in.

The fact is new subscription rates are plateauing. The cost-of-living crisis is expected to hit the market with a wallop (Netflix has already lost 210,000 subscribers in the UK) as households become more diligent with their outgoings.

Then there’s the spectre of saturation. A fifth of UK households now have subscriptions to all three of the main SVOD players, while 90% of 18-24s – the market’s go-to audience – have access to at least one platform.

So, do the streaming giants accept their lot and continue down the road well-travelled – perhaps trying to sneak in price increases that will likely go down like a cup of soured milk – or do they make a pact with what has been seen as the devil to such companies for years: advertising? It appears the latter will be the case, if Amazon’s Freevee is anything to go by.

UK content reigns supreme

Somewhat interestingly, the Ofcom Media Nations report found that, of all surveyed individuals aged 13+, 38% claim to prefer British-made programming over US-made, with only 8% pinning their flags to the latter.

Now, as with everything when it comes to TV and video, a generational divide shows its face, with 55% of over-64s saying they prefer UK content, while only 17% of 13-17s said the same. Conversely, 18% of 13-17s favour US-based shows, compared to a scant 2% of 65+.

52% of all individuals say they have no preference.

It’s a mixed bag for the Public Service Broadcasters

First, the bad news: the average weekly reach of PSBs has fallen from 80% in 2019 to 76% this past year. Less than half of 16-24s tuned into a PSB channel for 15 consecutive minutes in a given week.

Now the good news: 67% of those who did watch a PSB channel in the last six months said they were satisfied with the content, with just 12% saying they were dissatisfied. The love is broadly consistent across all age groups.

This is heartening amidst continuing scrutiny from sections of the media and political elite; it should serve as a reminder to advertisers that the PSB channels still serve an important role; with investment in new programming now at its highest level since 2017, and the number of big budget TV programmes reaching an all-time high of 211 in 2021, PSBs remain a vital source of both creativity and eyeballs.

Radio and audio are evolving with the times

Live radio now accounts for 63% of total audio listening time – down from 75% in 2017. At the same time, music streaming services have seen their share rise from 8% to 20% in 2022. Despite this, 90% of adults still listen to live radio every week, while commercial radio now attracts more listeners than BBC stations.

These stats highlight the influence that digitisation has had on the audio market, with 15-34s in particular driving the shift. 47% of this demographic’s audio listening week is now taken up by online music platforms, representing a significant rise from 22% five years ago.

The evolution of how we listen to audio content is also clear from the devices used.  Though radio sets (73%) remain out in front, 10% of listening hours are now spent with smart speakers, 5% on smart TVs and 12% via other online means.

If you would like to find out more about the current media landscape and how your business could benefit, get in touch with our team of experts today. We also now offer the option of low carbon media planning.

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