- November 18, 2021

Comscore Connected TV: Viewing Behaviour in the UK

PART III

Alex Gevers
Alex Gevers
Senior Insights Manager

In the third instalment of Comscore Connected TV: Viewing Behaviour in the UK, we look at how OTT viewers differ from the average TV viewer in terms of content preferences. (The first and second instalments are available here and here.) We base our analysis on data from smart TVs, i.e. television sets with internet capabilities, which can access both traditional (linear) TV as well as stream OTT content. Since, for most consumers, viewing behaviour follows a weekly pattern, we maintain the approach of analysing time periods that cover natural weeks. This time, the period of analysis includes the four weeks from Monday, October 4, 2021 up to and including Sunday, October 31, 2021.

In the UK, only a handful of OTT services have reached sizeable audiences. These are the usual suspects – Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Prime Video (see table below). Netflix leads the pack: it has the highest level of device penetration and captures most of the time spent on OTT services across the nation. OTT services from national broadcasters such as BBC iPlayer or All 4 do also feature among the top five services. Within the OTT space their share appears low compared with the top 3 OTT services. However, this understates their true reach since they are used as catch-up services for the widely popular linear TV channels owned by the BBC and Channel 4 (owners of BBC iPlayer and All 4, respectively).

Table 1: Top OTT services in the UK 

  Reach within devices that accessed an OTT service % of total OTT viewing duration Minutes per device per day
Netflix 69% 44% 43.5
YouTube 34% 36% 70.3
Amazon Prime Video 31% 10% 22.7
BBC iPlayer 9% 2% 17.0
All 4 6% 2% 3.1

Source: Based on UK smart TV data feeds processed by Comscore that cover major content providers. Period covered: Monday, Oct 4 up to and including Sunday, Oct 31, 2021. Linear data includes both real-time and time-shifted viewing.

One question for advertisers and publishers is to what extent the content watched on OTT services differs from the content watched on linear services. The data – summarised in the table below – gives some indication: programmes that provide escapism (Science Fiction, Fantasy or Thrillers, say) are far more likely to be watched on OTT services then they are on linear TV.

Table 2. OTT viewers: likelihood to watch popular genres on OTT, compared with the likelihood to watch the same genre on linear TV. 

List of genres Likelihood index  
Science Fiction 2,173 More likely to watch on OTT services
Fantasy 1,258
Thriller & Suspense 1,255
Crime 803
Comedy 516
Family 452
Music 390
Drama 290
Mystery 208
Documentary 55 Less likely
Sports n/a Watch exclusively on linear TV
Game Show n/a
News n/a
Entertainment n/a
Reality n/a
Do It Yourself n/a
Food n/a
Nature n/a
Health & Medicine n/a
Travel n/a

Source: Based on UK smart TV data feeds processed by Comscore that cover major content providers. Period covered: Monday, Oct 4 up to and including Sunday, Oct 31, 2021. Linear data includes both real-time and time-shifted viewing.

Note on reading the table: a likelihood index of 100 means that the viewer is as likely to watch a specific genre on OTT as she is to watch it on linear TV. A value, for example, of 200 means twice as likely; a value of 50 means half as likely. 

To some extent, the above data reflects what’s on offer: linear TV excels at live coverage of events – News, Sports, Game Shows. On the other hand, OTT services have, by necessity, acquired blockbuster programmes that can attract subscribers for years to come. (Game of Thrones and The Sopranos on Sky Atlantic still rank among the most widely streamed shows.) 

It is tempting to conclude that content preferences are determined by the choice of platform. Yet the data shows that even when restricted to linear TV, OTT viewers still spend more time watching programmes that provide some escapism, such as Fantasy or Science Fiction. (See table below.) On the other hand, they spend less time watching programmes anchored in reality – News, DIY, or Game shows.

Table 3. OTT viewers: likelihood to watch popular genres on linear TV, compared with the average linear TV viewer 

List of genres Likelihood index  
Fantasy 117 OTT viewers are more likely to watch these genres on linear TV than the average linear TV viewer
Family 114
Comedy 112
Science Fiction 112
Thriller & Suspense 111
Sports 105
Music 105
Crime 105
Reality 102
Entertainment 101
Drama 100 As likely
Documentary 100
Food 99 Less likely
Health & Medicine 97
Mystery 96
Travel 95
Game Show 95
Do It Yourself 94
News 93
Nature 91

Source: Based on UK smart TV data feeds processed by Comscore that cover major content providers. Period covered: Monday, Oct 4 up to and including Sunday, Oct 31, 2021. Linear data includes both real-time and time-shifted viewing.

Note on reading the table: a likelihood index of 100 means that the OTT subscriber is as likely to watch a specific genre on Linear TV as the average linear TV viewer. A value, for example, of 120 means that she is 20% more likely, and a value of 90 means that she is 10% less likely. 

After a sharp slowdown in 2020 and early 2021, the pipeline of new content is filling up again. ‘Squid Games’ was released on Netflix in September 2021 and took the world by storm and quickly surpassed the volumes of traffic of the other top shows combined. In the UK, audience sizes spiked in the first half of the month of October before coming back down to earth in the second half. (See chart below.)

Note on reading the chart: the trendlines represent daily aggregate viewing duration for each show. These viewing durations are turned into indices with the value for Squid Games on October 5 used as base 100. 

Much has been said about the merits of shows such as Squid Games to acquire new subscribers, yet for advertisers the question remains of how to reach these users who are willing to spend more for premium content. Here cross-viewing data provide some clues: among the most popular TV shows in the UK, some are far more likely to attract Squid Game viewers than others. It is interesting to note, for example, that while OTT viewers as a whole were only marginally keener to watch sports than linear TV viewers (see table 3), Squid Games viewers are far more likely to watch Sports programmes such as Renault Super Sunday or the UEFA European Qualifiers Football. 

Table 4. Squid Games viewers: affinity towards some of the popular programmes on linear TV in the UK 

Linear TV programme Likelihood index
Live: Renault Super Sunday 166 More likely to watch on linear TV than the average linear TV viewer
The Great British Bake Off 138
Married at First Sight Australia 138
Live: UEFA European Qualifiers Football 123
Good Morning Britain 123
Lorraine 120
This Morning 119
EastEnders 117
Loose Women 112
Coronation Street 93 Less likely
Emmerdale 88
The Chase 88
ITV Evening News 86
Strictly Come Dancing 85
Tipping Point 84
The One Show 78
Breakfast 75
BBC News 66
Antiques Road Trip 59
BBC News at Six 58

Source: Based on UK smart TV data feeds processed by Comscore that cover major content providers. Period covered: Monday, Oct 4 up to and including Sunday, Oct 31, 2021. Linear data includes both real-time and time-shifted viewing. Note on reading the table: a likelihood index of 100 means that the Squid Games viewer is as likely to watch a specific programme on Linear TV as the average linear TV viewer. A value, for example, of 120 means that she is 20% more likely, and a value of 90 means that she is 10% less likely.

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