Young watch almost seven times less TV than over-65s – Ofcom

Grandparents watch television while granddaughter uses her laptopGetty Images

Young people now watch almost seven times less broadcast television than people aged over 65, according to a report from regulator Ofcom.

It said 16 to 24-year-olds spend just 53 minutes watching TV each day, a two-thirds decrease in the past 10 years.

Meanwhile, those aged 65 and over spend just under six hours on average watching TV daily.

This “generation gap” in viewing habits is wider than ever before, according to Ofcom’s annual Media Nations report.

It attributed the gap to the use of television alternatives such as streaming services and short-form video.

In its report, Ofcom said about one in five UK homes had access to all three of the biggest streaming services – Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime.

It said 5.2 million homes now had access to all three, which would cost about £300 per year if they paid for them individually.

However, it conceded that this figure included free trials and people who are sharing accounts between households.

Cost of living pressures

Ofcom also found that overall the number of homes subscribing to at least one streaming service had decreased by 350,000.

It blamed the pressure on household budgets as a result of a rise in the cost of living.

But it found – in a survey of people who cancelled their services – that three-quarters planned to renew their subscriptions when their circumstances changed.

“The streaming revolution is stretching the TV generation gap, creating a stark divide in the viewing habits of younger and older people,” said Ofcom’s director of market intelligence, Ian Macrae.

“Traditional broadcasters face tough competition from online streaming platforms, which they’re partly meeting through the popularity of their own on-demand player apps, while broadcast television is still the place to go for big events that bring the nation together such as the Euro final or the Jubilee celebrations.”

Short-form video

In 2021, Ofcom found screen time – the average amount of time people spend watching video content across all devices – hit a daily average of five hours and 40 minutes, nearly a third of an adult’s waking hours.

This decreased by 25 minutes in the latest figures which found, on average, people spent 59% of their screen time watching live or catch-up TV.

Meanwhile, a third of adults in Great Britain watch short-form videos – or videos less than 10 minutes in length – with 65% of 18 to 24-year-olds watching them daily.

This number is vastly increased for younger audiences, with 93% of 15 to 17-year-olds getting daily short-form videos from YouTube, 90% viewing on Instagram and 73% watching on TikTok.

The report also looked into the type of short-form videos people are watching online and found “how to” content – such as recipes or DIY – was the most viewed.

Some 59% said they engaged with short news videos online, 32% said they watched videos about video games and just over half of the adults surveyed said they watched videos posted online by friends and family.


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