Usage of on-demand streaming services in the UK almost doubled in 2020, but data released this week by Ofcom reveals the number of content hours (TV episodes and films) subscribers can get from each of the popular streaming services.
Those numbers reveal that Amazon Prime Video is currently the leading content provider in the UK (in terms of total available content hours), with Netflix a close second.
However, two of the major streaming services – Sky’s NOW (formerly NOW TV) and Disney+, are still far behind, with NOW providing less than half the content hours of Prime Video / Netflix, and Disney+ providing less than a quarter (see the full numbers below).
The numbers were published as part of Ofcom’s annual “Media Nations” report, which looks at the UK’s media consumption habits.
Unsurprisingly, TV and video consumption grew considerably in 2020, in large part due to the pandemic and the UK lockdowns: total viewing of audio-visual content increased by 47 minutes to 5 hours 40 minutes per person per day in 2020 relative to 2019, with nearly all forms of video viewing increasing year on year.
However, streaming services saw the highest growth, with the viewing of on-demand services (such as Netflix and Prime Video) almost doubling in 2020.
Furthermore, streaming services were used by 60% of all UK households by Q3 2020, up from 49% a year earlier, with more than half of UK households subscribed to Netflix in 2020.
This puts Netflix at a higher subscriber rate than all the other ‘traditional’ pay-TV companies (Sky, Virgin Media, etc.) combined, as pay-TV takeup was 48% of all households by Q3 2020.
Part of Netflix’ success can be attributed to its local original programming: four of the most popular Netflix titles in Q1 2021 included UK-produced titles such as Bridgerton, The Dig, and Behind her Eyes, which were commissioned by (and exclusive to) Netflix.
Bridgerton, released on Christmas Day 2020, was a particular success for Netflix, reaching 2.8 million UK households in the last seven days of 2020, with a further 5.4 million UK Netflix households starting to watch the programme in Q1 2021, making it the highest-reaching title in that quarter.
With public broadcasters’ streaming services also doing well, nearly half of UK adults now consider online video services to be their main way of watching TV and films.
The Most Popular Streaming Services In The UK
Netflix, with its 14.8 million households, has the lead in the UK, with Prime Video in second place standing behind with 9.5 million households, according to Ofcom’s data.
However, both services increased their subscriber bases in 2020 (with the lockdowns being a contributing factor), with each adding just over three million new households in the 12-month period to Q3 2020.
Disney+ (see our review) climbed up to the third spot in 2020 (even though it only launched in March of that year), overtaking Sky’s NOW streaming service: Disney ended Q3 2020 with 3.3 million households, and NOW had 1.9 million households.
But Disney+ seems to be a complementary streaming service, at least during 2020 – The vast majority (95%) of Disney+ subscribing households also subscribed to Netflix, Prime Video or both.
Apple TV+, which most users got for free in 2020 (by buying an Apple device), was far behind the rest with just 959,000 households.
BritBox, the streaming service from ITV and the BBC, had just 19,600 households at the time (though they have recently reported 550,000 total subscribers).
Which Streaming Service Has The Most Content Hours?
Ofcom also looked at the content libraries of all the major streaming services (including those of the public service broadcasters, like BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub).
In the first quarter of 2021, Amazon Prime Video had 41,000+ hours of content, putting it at the number one spot in terms of available content.
Netflix had 38,000+ hours of content. Those who subscribe to both Prime Video and Netflix, had had access to 20,234 distinct titles in April 2021.
NOW is in third place with 18,000 hours of content – but it’s worth remembering that NOW has three separate content memberships – Entertainment (for TV shows), Cinema and Sports – so you will only have access to 18,000 hours if you subscribe to all three plans.
Disney+ is far behind, though things have improved with the introduction of the Star category this year – in 2020, Disney+ only had 4,000 hours of content. But in 2021, with Star, content hours more than doubled to 9,000+.
Among the public broadcasters, All4 from Channel 4 is in first place with 15,000 hours of content, leaving BBC iPlayer behind with 11,000 hours of content.
Looking ahead, things aren’t likely to change considerably for Netflix, Prime Video and Disney+ – all three will keep adding content, with an emphasis on original programming, but their respective positions are likely to remain similar to what they were in this report.
Things might change for NOW, however – last week, Sky announced that its customers – including Sky subscribers – will get the US streaming service Peacock for free, when it launches in the UK later this year.
Although it’s a separate service, Peacock will add thousands of hours of content to NOW/Sky subscribers at no extra cost – though it’s still unlikely they will reach Netflix / Prime Video numbers.
Paramount+ is also coming to the UK, but will only be free to Sky Cinema subscribers – and not for NOW members.