The lockdown months in the U.K., from late March to early July, saw U.S. streaming giants Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney Plus make significant gains in the country, according to a new study released Wednesday by media regulator Ofcom.
Disney Plus, which launched March 24, the date lockdown was officially imposed, had the highest impact with 16% of online adults subscribing, surpassing Sky’s Now TV (10%) to become the U.K.’s third most subscribed streamer after Netflix’s 45% and Amazon’s 39%. However, 95% of Disney Plus subscribers also subscribe to either Netflix or Amazon, and in some cases both, “meaning that it has proved largely supplementary to them so far,” said Ofcom’s Media Nations 2020 report.
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Netflix remains the U.K.’s most popular SVOD service with an estimated 13 million subscribers, a 13% increase from 2019, in the first quarter of 2020, pre-lockdown. In the same period, Amazon grew 32% to reach 7.9 million subscribers.
An estimated 12 million online adults took up a new SVOD subscription during lockdown, with some 3 million subscribing for the first time, the study found.
The vast majority of online adults who were signed up to Netflix (96%), Amazon Prime Video (91%) and Disney Plus (84%) said they plan to keep their subscriptions in the months ahead.
The robust numbers for streamers, however, doesn’t mean it’s been all doom and gloom for public service broadcasters. The BBC, ITV, STV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 achieved their highest combined monthly share of broadcast TV viewing in more than six years in March (59%), driven by a demand for trusted news programs as the coronavirus pandemic expanded.
The BBC was the most popular source of news and information about COVID-19, used by eight in ten adults during the first week of lockdown.
“Normal People” and “Killing Eve” helped BBC iPlayer attract 570 million program requests in May 2020 — a 72% increase year on year. Meanwhile, Channel 4’s on-demand service, All 4, generated 30% more views among 16-34s in the first two weeks of lockdown, while viewers spent 82% more time on ITV Hub.
“The pandemic showed public service broadcasting at its best, delivering trusted news and U.K. content that viewers really value,” said Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s strategy and research group director. “But U.K. 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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