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‘Bridgerton,’ ‘The Dig’ Most Popular as Netflix Makes Major Gains in U.K., Finds Ofcom Study

·3 min read

Some 52% of U.K. households have a Netflix subscription and 29 of the top 30 shows on subscription services in the first quarter of 2021 were on the giant streamer, a study has found.

The Netflix customer base now exceeds that of U.K. pay-TV providers combined for the very first time.

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“Media Nations 2021,” the annual study of British viewing habits by U.K. media regulator Ofcom, reveals that the four most popular programs in the country were U.K. produced – “Bridgerton,” “The Dig,” “Behind her Eyes” and “Fate: The Wynx Saga.” “Bridgerton” in particular, was a resounding success, with 8.2 million homes watching by the end of March 2021, making it Netflix’s highest reaching title that quarter.

Overall, U.K. subscriptions to streaming services climbed by over 50% in 2020 to reach 31 million, up from 20 million in 2019, the study reveals. The main streaming services gathered an estimated £2.11 billion ($2.93 billion) in U.K. revenues during 2020 — a 28% increase in real terms on 2019’s £1.66 billion –- and more than double their £1.03 billion revenues in 2017.

The study also records that by April 2021, streaming service providers were offering U.K. 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. The combined content catalogues of All 4, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and My5 were short of this at 37,000 hours.

The gains made by streamers has led to an erosion in broadcast television viewership, the study notes. The average time spent watching traditional broadcast TV each day in 2020 was 3 hours 12 minutes – nine minutes higher than in 2019. However, this increase was entirely driven by people aged 45 and over.

Younger age groups continued to watch less broadcast TV in 2020, with people aged 16-24 spending only an hour and 17 minutes watching broadcast content – down from one hour and 21 minutes in 2019.

Overall, the net effect was a fall in broadcast TV’s share of all adults’ total viewing in 2020, from 67% in 2019 to 61%.

Live sport, drama and news continues to be an audience draw for broadcast TV, with the most-watched program so far this year being the Euro 2020 soccer championship final between England and Italy with a combined audience of over 22 million U.K. viewers on BBC One and ITV. The Euro 2020 semi-final between England and Denmark had the highest audience on a single channel with 18.3 million U.K. viewers on ITV.

BBC One’s “Line of Duty” series finale with 16.4 million U.K. viewers and ITV’s Oprah Winfrey interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry with 14.9 million U.K. viewers were also popular broadcast TV draws.

The study also found that in 2020, where many months were spent in lockdown, U.K. adults spent 2000 hours, or more than a third of waking hours, watching TV and online video content.

Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s group director, strategy and research, said: “The pandemic undoubtedly turbo-charged viewing to streaming services, with three in five U.K. homes now signed up. But with subscriber growth slowing into 2021 and lockdown restrictions easing, the challenge for the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Disney will be to ensure a healthy pipeline of content and keep customers signed up.”

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