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Streaming subscriptions overtake pay TV for first time in the UK

Now TV is among the three most popular UK streaming services

Streaming services have overtaken pay-TV broadcasters for subscribers for the first time in the UK.

The UK's three most popular streaming providers, Netflix, Amazon Prime and Now TV (from Sky) hit 15.4m subscriptions during the first quarter of 2018, leapfrogging the 15.1m subscriptions to traditional pay TV suppliers such as Sky, BT and Virgin Media.

The findings come from Ofcom's Media Nations Report which also reveals that people are watching less TV, down an average of nine minutes in the last year. As a result, investment from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 on UK-made TV programmes hit a 20-year low at a combined £2.5bn, down from a peak of £3.4bn in 2004.

Sharon White, Ofcom’s chief executive, said: “Today’s research finds that what we watch and how we watch it are changing rapidly, which has profound implications for UK television.

“We have seen a decline in revenues for pay TV, a fall in spending on new programmes by our public service broadcasters, and the growth of global video streaming giants. These challenges cannot be underestimated.

“But UK broadcasters have a history of adapting to change. By making the best British programmes and working together to reach people who are turning away from TV, our broadcasters can compete in the digital age.”

Lindsey Clay, chief executive of TV trade body Thinkbox, added: “People love watching TV any way they can get it – and they can get it more ways than ever before. But they don’t restrict themselves to just one kind; different forms of TV are not mutually exclusive. Most people with pay TV subscriptions also pay for streaming services as well.

“We watch broadcast TV and on demand, depending on the time, place, type of show and the company we are in. As TV evolves, we are watching less broadcast TV than before – although still much more than anything else – but that is because we have more choice than ever. And if we didn’t have broadcast TV, we’d have to invent it because we will always enjoy sharing our TV. TV has always thrived on every technological disruption and now we are seeing its future arrive with a gold rush of companies joining the industry. It’s never been a better time to be a viewer.”

While TV streaming services are gaining momentum in the UK, there is still work to be done to bring in a large proportion of viewers not currently watching on-demand. Of 3,729 Brits polled by Ofcom, 46% said they never use such services.

Of those who use do use VOD services, 35% said they use a public service broadcaster's, with most turning to the BBC iPlayer at 34%. The picture fragments from here.

28% said they access Netflix, 17% watch YouTube, 16% ITV Hub, 12% Amazon Prime, 9% All4 and 6% My 5. Facebook, Now TV, Sky Go, BT TV, Snapchat, Apple Music, and Twitter followed.

Read the full report here.

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