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
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.
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
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
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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