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Online “Pay-To-Watch” Now In Lead

The latest Office for National Statistics’ annual Internet Access and Use report has revealed that there has been a big rise in the number of people using commercial video streaming services.

Video Streaming Popular

The report shows a big jump from 29% of those watching online video-on-demand from commercial services in 2016 to 46% in 2018. The figures for 2018 refer to data collected in the January, February and April 2018 modules of the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) conducted by the ONS.

The popular video-on-demand services referred to in the report include Netflix, Now TV, and Amazon Prime.

More Subscriptions To Online Video Steaming Than ‘Traditional’ TV

This supports Ofcom’s recent Media Nations report, which has replaced the PSB Annual Report and Digital Radio Report (and is based on BARB Establishment Survey data.), which shows that more people now subscribe to Netflix, Amazon and NOW TV than there to ‘traditional’ pay-TV services e.g. Sky, BT and Virgin.

The report showed that pay-TV subscriptions in the UK totalled 15.1 million, while the leading three on-demand video services totalled 15.4 million.

The Ofcom data showed that 39% of UK households (11.1m) have at least one on-demand streaming service subscription, and although Amazon Prime Video has a slightly larger year-on-year growth rate than Netflix, Netflix is the most popular subscription video-on-demand service, with subscriptions nearly doubling that of its closest rival – 9.1 million UK households Q1 2018.


The huge growth of popular video-on-demand services is the result of a number of factors including the fact that more than 80% of UK homes have a fixed broadband connection (90% of UK homes have some kind internet access), and 58% of these connections are considered to be superfast (30Mbit/s or higher download speeds), and that there has been a big rise in the number of people owning / using smart TVs and streaming dongles / boxes.

YouTube Popular Too

Google’s video social network platform YouTube has also seen a big rise in the number of people using the service – 62% in 2018, up from 47%.

Older People Using The Services

It appears that another reason for the rise in popularity of on-demand video-streaming services is that older people are now signing up. This is reflected, for example, in the fact that services such as Netflix are commissioning original shows pitched at more mature audiences.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Products / services that can be distributed via the Internet e.g. films and TV shows have almost inevitably increased in popularity at a time when most households have a broadband connection and when most people have a smartphone.

As consumers who are used to more choice and the ability to access more personalised offerings and experiences from businesses in a growing subscription economy, and who may have become used to ‘traditional’ pay-TV services, it is just a short jump to the greater choice and convenience of on-demand video services such as Netflix and Amazon. Just as more older people are populating social media platforms such as Facebook, older audiences are also now more used to technology and are finding it easier and beneficial to switch to video-on-demand from commercial services.

This increase in the popularity of such services means that the market for them is set to become more crowded (which is often good news for the consumer) as other players try to take advantage of the consumer viewing trends. For example, Sky is reported to be about to make all its content available online; Apple is expected to launch a TV subscription service soon;, and Disney may also soon be expanding the content available via its DisneyLife app.