The Viewing Report

The growth of SVOD services

21 May 2019

The fragmentation of the media landscape is far from a new concept, but the growing competition for viewers’ time is increasingly evident. In 2018, time spent on unidentified viewing – where the TV set was used to do something other than watch a BARB-reported channel or on-demand service – increased to 20% of all TV set activity, up from 17% in the preceding 12 months. That is a rise from 41 to 48 minutes a day on average.

What is driving this growth in unidentified viewing? As the name suggests, we can’t be certain, but we do have a growing body of evidence that points to SVOD services being a primary catalyst.

One angle of investigation is to compare unidentified viewing with SVOD penetration figures from our Establishment Survey, which has included a question about SVOD subscriptions since 2014. Plotting the number of SVOD homes against the average quarterly levels of unidentified viewing shows a strong correlation between the two: an R2 of 0.95.

Establishment Survey data also tell us that 12.3 million homes in the UK had at least one of Netflix, Amazon Prime Video or Now TV in Q4 2018 – a year-on-year increase of 20%. Netflix is the main driver of this increase, having added 2.2 million homes compared to Q4 2017. Amazon too has shown impressive growth, adding more than a million homes, while Now TV has added just under 100,000. We have also seen the number of homes with two or more services rise by 32% from 3.26 million to 4.3 million in the past year.

We can also find out more about the kinds of households that are likely to subscribe to an SVOD service from the Establishment Survey data. Looking at household size, we can see that one or two-person households – 72% of which have adults aged 55+ present – are less likely than the UK average to subscribe to an SVOD service.

By contrast, households with three or more people, which are more than 2.5 times more likely to have children present, are 47% more likely to subscribe to one of the three main SVOD services than the UK average. These multi-person households could also be occupied by young people. We know that 16-24-year-olds are 70% more likely than the UK average to have access to an SVOD service. This age group’s daily unidentified viewing in 2018 was 65 minutes.

It’s important to bear in mind that unidentified viewing is still a fifth of the time spent with the TV set, and not all unidentified viewing is to SVOD services; it also includes games playing on consoles and watching programming more than 28 days after broadcast. However, it’s clear that SVOD services are very likely to account for a significant proportion of this viewing.

We recognise the industry’s desire to unpack unidentified viewing, regardless of whether the service provider wants to be measured by BARB. This is why we are investigating the use of router meters in panel homes as a potential solution for identifying SVOD viewing. We are testing two router meter solutions, with the aim of providing the best possible view of the television ecosystem in which SVOD services are so very clearly already a part. Keep an eye on this website for further updates.

To see the latest data on SVOD household subscriptions, visit the SVOD tracker.

Read BARB’s recent SVOD report with further analysis.