Young adults in the UK are spending more time scrolling on social media site TikTok than watching broadcast TV, according to an Ofcom report on Wednesday that highlights the growing generational divide in media habits.
In its annual survey of consumer trends, the media regulator found that people aged 16 to 24 spent an average of 53 minutes a day watching traditional TV, barely a third of the level a while ago. ten years.
By contrast, people over the age of 65 spent seven times as long watching channels such as BBC One or ITV, watching nearly six hours of TV programming a day – a figure that has been rising since 2011.
The faster adoption of streaming services and social media by young people poses a growing challenge for broadcasters as they attempt to weather an economic downturn, satisfy their most loyal older viewers and invest to keep pace with rapidly changing consumer habits.
Ofcom said the surge in traditional TV consumption due to the pandemic has largely passed, with time spent watching broadcasters – live or via on-demand platforms – having fallen by almost 9% since 2020.
While public service broadcasters, including the BBC and Channel 4, are well regarded by young adults, their weekly reach is steadily declining with these age groups. In 2021, for example, less than half of 16-24 year olds watched at least 15 minutes a week of programs on a public service channel such as the BBC, ITV or Channel 4.
Meanwhile, the reach of subscription streaming services, such as Netflix and Disney Plus, and social video platforms, including YouTube and TikTok, has grown rapidly over the past decade.
A study for Ofcom by polling firm Ipsos estimated that 15 to 24 year olds spent 57 minutes a day on TikTok alone. That’s more than the 53 minutes the 16-24 age group spends watching TV, according to a separate survey for Ofcom by audience measurement agency BARB.
The challenges of the impending recession are already becoming clear, for broadcasters and streamers alike.
Revenues from the largest subscription streaming services continued to grow rapidly in 2021, with an estimated increase of 27%, largely due to rising prices. But the proportion of households paying for at least one service fell in the second quarter of 2022.
Market pressures were offset by some families showing greater openness to multiple subscriptions. Around 5.2 million UK households – almost a fifth of the global total – pay for all three Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney Plus, at a cost of nearly £300 a year.
Traditional television continues to host the vast majority of the most-watched programs, including major sports competitions and hit series such as Course of action.
But broadcasters are struggling to keep pace with their US streaming rivals. While the BBC’s iPlayer has set new viewership records, reaching 6.5 billion streams in 2021, it remains well behind Netflix, which last year attracted around 20 billion views.