"The U.K. Has Become a Nation of Binge Viewers," Ofcom Report Finds

Courtesy of HBO
'Game of Thrones' is among the shows that British TV viewers have been bingeing on

More than seven in 10 adults say they sometimes watch more than planned, and 32 percent admit "the temptation to watch another episode has cost them sleep and left them feeling tired."

"The U.K. has become a nation of binge viewers." That was one of the key takeaways of British communications regulator Ofcom’s annual Communications Market Report, published on Thursday. 

Ofcom's research found that eight in 10 adults in the U.K., or 79 percent or 40 million people, are now watching multiple episodes of their favorite shows in a single viewing session. They use catch-up technology, such as the BBC's iPlayer, or subscription VOD services, such as Netflix and Amazon.

Younger people are more likely to use streaming services, with 76 percent of people aged 16-24 using a subscription streaming service, compared to 19 percent of people aged 65 and over.

Overall, 35 percent binge-watch TV every week, and 55 percent do so monthly. "Most binge-viewers (70 percent) find this type of viewing relaxing and enjoyable, and for others it’s an opportunity to discuss with friends (24 percent)," said the Ofcom report. "But around a third (32 percent) of adults admit the temptation to watch another episode has cost them sleep and left them feeling tired."

A whole 35 percent of binge-viewers, and 47 percent of young adults aged 16-24, are trying to cut down their viewing in some way, including by rationing viewing (19 percent), finding an alternative hobby (10 percent) or canceling a TV subscription (4 percent), it found.

"Binge-viewing has such a strong allure that many viewers say they don’t intend to do it, but the pull of the next episode keeps them tuned in," Ofcom wrote. "More than seven in 10 (74 percent) say they sometimes watch more than they intend to, while 18 percent say this always happens."

The research found that bingeing is most popular among young people, with 53 percent of those aged 12-15 enjoying weekly watch-a-thons, compared to just 16 percent of over-65s. In that older demographic, 59 percent prefer a traditional release of one episode per week.

Fear of spoilers helps feed the bingeing desire, with 25 percent of people mentioning that as a reason. "This can result in some (16 percent) feeling under pressure to keep up with the viewing habits of family or friends," Ofcom found.

Of course, mobile devices have also changed the British public's viewing behavior. "More than a third of people watch TV on the move — while on holiday (24 percent), while commuting (16 percent) or even in the pub (7 percent)," Ofcom highlighted. "Just over a half of people (51 percent) watch TV in their bedroom, while others watch in the kitchen (16 percent), the garden (9 percent) or the bathroom (9 percent)."

Another key finding of the annual Ofcom report is that "for many, watching TV is now a solo activity." Two in five adults say they watch TV alone every day, and almost nine in 10 watch programs alone at least once a week. And one third of people say members of their household sit together, in the same room, watching different programs on separate screens.

Despite this, 30 percent of adults say their family still watches the same TV programs or films together every day, while 70 percent do so at least once a week. "Nearly seven in 10 (68 percent) say watching TV can bring the whole family together for a shared viewing experience," Ofcom found.

Commenting on Thursday's Ofcom report, Stephen van Rooyen, CEO at Sky U.K. and Ireland, said the pay TV giant has also noticed increased binge-watching. "This year we have seen Sky customers binge-watch like never before, including 17 million downloads of our record-breaking Sky original Riviera," he said. "There have been almost 40 million downloads and streams of [seasons] 1-6 of Game of Thrones across Sky and [streaming service] Now TV in the past three months alone as viewers race through back-to-back box sets."

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