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Fewer people watching live TV in U.K., Ofcom says

A television set with streaming content.
(Stock image)

The number of viewers watching traditional linear television channels continues to fall in the United Kingdom as more households turn their attention and wallets toward on-demand streaming services.

In its latest annual report, British media regulator Ofcom said the number of households that watched linear television in 2022 was 79 percent, down 4 points compared to the previous year.

BBC One, Britain’s flagship public broadcast channel, was the only traditional television outlet to reach half the population, Ofcom said.

Those who are still tuning in to broadcast TV are spending less time watching content there, with Ofcom reporting a 12 percent decline in hours spent on linear television during 2022. The average citizen watches around 2 hours and 38 minutes of broadcast TV each day, or about 21 minutes less than they did in 2021.

Viewers who are over the age of 65 are more likely to watch broadcast or other forms of linear television, but Ofcom said that population is increasingly gravitating toward streaming services as they become more abundant.

Younger viewers are abandoning broadcast television at a faster rate, with Ofcom reporting a 21 percent year-over-year decline among individuals between the ages of 4 and 34 years old.

The trend has created a situation for broadcasters who are struggling to draw an audience to their live channels. In 2014, nearly 2,500 live broadcast transmissions captured an audience of 4 million or more viewers. Fast-forward to 2022, and that number fell to just over 1,180 — a 52 percent decline.

Except for the BBC, most linear broadcasters in the United Kingdom are funded through commercial advertisements (the BBC generates most of its revenue through an annual television tax imposed on TV viewers). Online video platforms have helped offset declines in broadcast advertising, with Ofcom reporting a 4.5 percent increase in 2022 to £17.3 billion across TV channel owners.

To read Ofcom’s annual report, click or tap here.

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).