Disney+ Rapidly Becomes The Third Biggest Streamer In The UK Amid Huge Rise In Viewing During Lockdown

Jake Kanter
·3 min read

Disney+ has enjoyed “rapid take-up” since launching in the UK on March 24, becoming the country’s third-biggest streaming service in the four months of lockdown, according to a detailed study.

The Media Nations 2020 report by media regulator Ofcom examined audience behavior in the UK during the height of the coronavirus crisis, and it revealed a huge jump in viewing that boosted both traditional broadcasters and streamers.

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Brits spent 45 hours a week glued to their screens in April, which was up 31% on the same month last year. Disney+ launched right into this sweet spot of people staying at home, meaning it made an impressive start in the UK.

Ofcom said 16% of adults had subscribed to Disney+ by the end of July, meaning it overtook Sky’s Now TV (10%) as the UK’s third-largest streaming service. Netflix was out in front, with 45% of Brits subscribing, while Amazon was next with 39%.

Stocked with originals including Hamilton and The Mandalorian, Disney+ “benefited significantly from lockdown, appealing to families required to spend most of their time at home,” Ofcom said.

With an estimated 12M Brits paying for a streaming service during lockdown (3M for the first time), Ofcom said Disney+ was taken up as a “supplementary” platform alongside either Netflix or Amazon.

But in a major reshaping of the UK media landscape among children, Ofcom noted that Disney+ was more popular than BBC iPlayer among children aged 3-11. That’s a worrying statistic for the BBC, which plows significant resource into providing young people in the UK with public service broadcasting.

The uptick in time spent with streamers was a big factor in UK screentime increasing 31% in April. Traditional broadcasters, including the BBC and ITV, also saw a huge viewing boost in the early weeks of lockdown. In March, they enjoyed their highest combined viewing share in six years (59%).

But the boost was short-lived, with the pandemic shutting down production and derailing sporting events. By June, the UK public service broadcasters’ viewing share fell to 55%, its lowest level since August 2019.

Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s group director of strategy and research, added: “Lockdown led to a huge rise in TV viewing and video streaming. The pandemic showed public service broadcasting at its best, delivering trusted news and UK content that viewers really value.

“But UK broadcasters face a tough advertising market, production challenges and financial uncertainty. So they need to keep demonstrating that value in the face of intense competition from streaming services.”

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