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Netflix has reached more subscribers in Great Britain than pay TV, driven by the coronavirus pandemic and the success of Bridgerton, according to U.K. media regulator Ofcom.
“U.K. adults sought solace in screens and streaming in 2020, spending a third of their waking hours watching TV and online video content,” it said in its according annual study of the nation’s media habits. U.K. streaming subscriptions soared by 50 percent to 31 million during the pandemic, up from 20 million in 2019.
“With people across the U.K. under some form of lockdown restrictions for most of last year, more than 2,000 hours of it were spent watching TV and online video content,” it said in its “Media Nations 2021” report. “That’s a daily average of five hours and 40 minutes, 47 minutes more than in 2019.”
The change was mainly driven by people spending almost twice as much time watching subscription streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+, one hour and five minutes per day. By September 2020, about 60 percent of U.K. homes were signed up to streamers.
More than half of U.K. households, 52 percent to be precise, have taken out a Netflix subscription, “meaning its customer base exceeds that of pay-TV providers combined for the very first time (48 percent),” Ofcom highlighted.
Of the top 30 most-watched titles on subscription services in Britain in the first quarter of 2021, 29 were on Netflix, according to the regulator. “Four of the most popular were U.K.-produced — Bridgerton, The Dig, Behind her Eyes and Fate: The Winx Saga. This shows that homegrown, original programs continue to be a significant draw for British audiences.”
Bridgerton was “a particular success,” with 8.2 million homes watching by the end of March, “making it Netflix’s highest-reaching title that quarter,” the British agency said.
Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s group director, strategy and research, said: “TV and online video have proved an important antidote to lockdown life, with people spending a third of their waking hours last year glued to screens for news and entertainment. The pandemic undoubtedly turbo-charged viewing to streaming services, with three in five U.K. homes now signed up.”
The expert also highlighted the post-pandemic challenges for streamers, noting: “But with subscriber growth slowing into 2021 and lockdown restrictions easing, the challenge for the likes of Netflix, Amazon and Disney will be to ensure a healthy pipeline of content and keep customers signed up.”
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