Young adults in the UK spend more time scrolling on social networking site TikTok than watching broadcast television, according to an Ofcom report on Wednesday that highlights the growing generation gap in media habits.
In its annual survey of consumer trends, the media regulator found that people aged 16 to 24 spent an average of 53 minutes a day watching traditional broadcast television, just a third of the level of a decade ago.
By contrast, people over the age of 65 spend seven times as much time in front of channels like BBC One or ITV, watching nearly six hours of broadcast television a day, a figure that has risen since 2011.
The faster adoption of streaming services and social media among young people poses a growing challenge for broadcasters as they try to weather an economic downturn, satisfy their most loyal older viewers, and invest to keep up with the pace of rapidly changing consumer habits.
Ofcom said the pandemic-driven increase in traditional TV consumption had largely subsided, with time spent watching broadcasts, whether live or via on-demand platforms, down nearly 9 per cent from 2020.
While public service broadcasters, including the BBC and Channel 4, are well viewed by younger adults, their weekly reach is steadily declining with those age groups. In 2021, for example, less than half of 16-24 year olds watched at least 15 minutes a week of programming on a public service channel such as the BBC, ITV or Channel 4.
Meanwhile, the reach of subscription streaming services like Netflix and Disney Plus, and social video platforms including YouTube and TikTok, has grown rapidly over the past decade.
A study for Ofcom by pollster Ipsos estimated that people aged 15 to 24 spent 57 minutes a day on TikTok alone. This is more than the 53 minutes the 16-24 age group spends watching broadcast television, according to a separate survey for Ofcom by BARB, an audience ratings agency.
The challenges of the looming recession are already becoming clear, for broadcasters and streamers alike.
Revenue at the largest subscription streaming services continued to grow rapidly in 2021, with an estimated 27 percent increase driven largely by price increases. But the proportion of households paying for at least one service fell in the second quarter of 2022.
Market pressures have been offset by some families showing greater openness to taking on multiple subscriptions. Around 5.2 million UK households, almost a fifth of the overall total, pay for all three Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney Plus, at a cost of nearly £300 a year.
Traditional television continues to host the vast majority of the most watched programs, including major sports competitions and hit series such as line of duty.
But broadcasters are struggling to keep up with their American rivals in streaming. While the BBC’s iPlayer has set new viewership records, reaching 6.5 billion views in 2021, it remains far behind Netflix, which garnered roughly 20 billion views last year.