Eyes on the nation – what you need to know about TV in 2021

The importance of video entertainment and news content in the lives of our audiences has never been greater.

With context from the 2021 Ofcom Media Nations Report, as well as new insight from the likes of Mintel and the Thinkbox TV Masters, we’ve compared findings from News UK’s Film & Entertainment Reader Panel with viewers across the nation to understand the role that video entertainment has played in our audiences’ lives since the pandemic and how this is set to evolve in the near future.

Here are some of the highlights.

Streaming: The Great Surge (And Purge?)

  • Leading SVoD providers were the big winners of lockdown, with over 60% of UK households now subscribing to a streaming service and time spent viewing SVoD content almost doubling.
  • More than 1 in 3 Sun and Times readers have acquired a new subscription service since March 2020.
  • While new player Disney+ has been the main beneficiary of this, Mintel found that it has so far proved to be mainly complementary to the two leading services, with 95% of subscribers also having a Netflix or Amazon Prime account.
  • However, while not actively in the market for a new entertainment provider, almost half of Times readers and 1 in 3 Sun readers are currently open to the idea of switching streaming services, meaning we reach over 10 million potential switchers every month.

Platforms: Keeping Connected

  • Thanks to an increased appetite for news & sport, linear TV achieved an increase in time spent viewing throughout 2020.
  • While on a national level this growth was driven entirely by those aged over 45, Live/Catch-Up TV viewing has seen a net 11% increase among Sun viewers and a net 6% increase among Times viewers since the first national lockdown.
  • The ever-changing and all-affecting pandemic news cycle has also resulted in a large increase in the number of Brits consuming news via short online videos, eclipsing ‘How To’ clips to become the #1 genre in this format (IPA Touchpoints 2020).
  • Our newsbrands have been able to leverage this increased interest, with The Sun and The Times both growing subscriber counts across their main video and social media channels by around 20% since March 2020 (Tubular Labs 2021).

Content: New Habits Shift TV Need States

  • In 2018, MTM and Thinkbox identified eight need states that drive video viewing. Since the pandemic, new habits have changed the amount of time our audience is spending in each of these need states, resulting in a shift in the type of content they prefer.
  • Most significantly, social isolation throughout the pandemic continues to drive a desire to share experiences with those across the nation and be part of major cultural moments.
  • While evident during the viral phenomenon that was Tiger King or Line of Duty’s (virtual) watercooler mystery, this has been most notable during live sporting events, from England’s unifying tilt at Euro 2020 to Emma Raducanu’s recent US Open success.
  • Indeed, live sport is the #2 and #4 genre that Sun and Times audiences report watching more of since the pandemic, respectively.

Experience: Inspiring & Engaging TV Viewers

Collectively reaching 80% of those interested in TV content, The Sun and The Times have great influence on the nation’s viewing habits. Our TV listings are the #1 source for viewing recommendations for each of our audiences.

This desire to seek recommendations from our newsbrands rather than flicking through channels or content libraries reflects a wider cultural shift.

Nearly two thirds of Brits say that they “prefer to watch something specific (e.g. box sets) than ‘channel surf’”, indicating a preference to view content on their own terms in their own time.

Cinema: Expediting the Recovery

Few industries have been as heavily impacted by the pandemic as cinema.

  • Having to contend with regular shutdowns, new releases finding alternate distribution methods, a shrunken theatrical window and audiences treating a return to theatres with much trepidation, ad revenue declined 82% YoY in 2020.

The recovery remains gradual, with the belated release of the new Bond film, No Time to Die, later this month offering something between a litmus test and a turning point; almost two-thirds of Times readers and half of Sun readers indicate that they are eager to see the film.