The UK Television Landscape Report

Redbricks and mortar boards

12 September 2017

The United Kingdom has long been a bastion of learning and education. Our institutions and foundations are centred around the promotion of learning as a means for bettering and building the utility of society. Today, they are still known throughout the world for their excellence and pioneering nature. From Enigma to Dolly the sheep, UK universities have continued to play an important part in historic discoveries. 

But once the dominion of the few, deregulation and expansion of university accessibility in the late 20th century now means more young people than ever continue their studies post school and into university life.

Now over half of all young people leaving school go on to university to study with the aim of completing a degree or equivalent. Most will finish at the age of 21 although a significant number continue well into their mid twenties; 53% of all 16-24 year olds are in full-time education.

What are the implications of this in media terms? 16-24s have historically been a key target for advertisers and programme makers alike; they are after all future leaders and future consumers. With such dichotomy between those working and those within education, it’s important to understand these two distinct segments, especially when it comes to media choices and exposure.



Study break 

Students especially are transient by nature as are, to a degree, young people in general. They are likely to move home on a regular basis and make short term plans. Even within university life, it is possible they will live in multiple homes during their studies.

Over 10% of 16-24 students do not have access to a TV set. Whether this is a reaction to the cost of licence fees or indeed the inconvenience of moving a large screen TV between abodes is unclear but what is, is that a significant number are spending time at home without a TV set (and hopefully studying).




Of those that do have TV sets, there are differences in how they receive their television. 62% of 16-24 young adults outside of education have access to terrestrial television, as well as 38% having access to Sky with subscription. However, for students, this falls to 56% having access to Freeview and only 33% with Sky  subscriptions.

Virgin Media interestingly indexes higher for both student and non-student 16-24s than all adults. This is possibly geographical in nature in that cable networks are largely centred around urban areas, which are where many universities are based.



Student haunts

However, when we break out where students and non-students alike live throughout the UK, we get some interesting results.

For sure, London, which has a plethora of universities within it, has a higher percentage of students compared to non-students. However, North West, home to the great cities of Manchester and Liverpool and their Russell Group universities, is home to less than 10% of 16-24 students but 12% of 16-24 non-students.

There is likely to be more at play here, including local job markets and industries, either pulling or repelling non-student 16-24s to live in one area over another.



Private libraries 

We’ve seen how 16-24 students are less exposed to traditional broadcast services than their non-student peers, with fewer owning a TV set in the home. But when it comes to subscription VOD services, their roles are reversed. 64% of all 16-24 students have access to one of the big three SVOD services, compared to 56% of non-students.

Netflix remains the dominant and most popular service within both groups, with 56% of 16-24 students with access compared to 49% of non-students. A similar relationship also arises with Amazon. And while Now TV is more popular among 16-24s than among all adults, students are  less likely to have access than non-students. This is possibly a reflection of the appeal of Now TV being a hybrid of both linear and VOD services.



Screening for success

We’ve seen the continued rise and prominence of larger TV screens in UK households, and for young people it’s no different. If they can, they want a larger screen to watch their television, and of the best quality. But of course, for students, with their transient nature and financial pressures, the ability to either afford these technologies or prioritise them against other goods and services (like a computer for studies) is stark.

As such, 16-24 year old students, compared to those that have finished studying are less likely to have access to a 50+ inch TV screen or a 4K TV set. However, once out of university and education, young adults more often than not are expressing their new found disposable incomes and tastes by acquiring the largest and highest quality TV set.



Graduating with honours 

What is clear from our data is that in a world of segmentation, simple, broad assumptions across demographics can no longer fully explain the nuances of these individuals. Our media choices and exposures are defined by multiple factors. For young people in learning, the pressures of study and further education are like never before. So, don’t be surprised if how they get their television may be different, not only to the rest of the population but even within their own age group.