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Sunday, September 24, 2023

Changing Viewing Habits is a Boost for Streaming Services

For around half a century, television had a monopoly on visual entertainment in the home. If you wanted to watch the news, catch a live sports game, or watch a film without buying it, you had to turn on your TV.

For this reason, what’s been shown on TV has had a big impact on our pop culture. For example it was very popular for women to ask for “The Rachel” when going to the hairdressers in 1995 after Jennifer Aniston appeared on Friends with her hair cut just above her shoulders. 

However, the last decade has seen TV lose its dominant position over the content that we watch as alternatives have become available. 

 YouTube and the Birth of Streaming

YouTube is now a giant of streaming, but even its founders couldn’t have predicted its success when it launched in 2005. Just a year later, Google acquired it for $1.65 billion.  

It started as a place for people to upload amateur videos, but very quickly became a place for content creators to host their professionally made videos. This made YouTube one of the first sites where the community could upload content with no cost to either the uploader or viewer. 

It has since gone on to be a platform used by famous names like Tom Felton, Jeremy Clarkson, The Rock.


In 2007 Netflix launched its video streaming service to let consumers access films and TV shows without having to use DVDs. The service was quickly integrated into devices like games consoles and the new smart TVs. 

Still Connected to the TV

Up to this point, services like YouTube and Netflix were still connected to the TV or a computer monitor. However, they were still offering unprecedented levels of freedom that had not been available to customers.

They could now watch the shows that they wanted, whenever they wanted, without being tied to the strict schedule set by the TV networks. It also started the phenomenon of “binge watching”, where people would watch an entire box set of episodes in one sitting. This was a novel concept since previously viewers had to wait for a new episode to be aired on TV each week. 

Mobile Making it Personal

It was shortly afterwards that Netflix and its rivals like Hulu launched mobile apps for smartphones and tablets, meaning users could watch their favourite content from anywhere. This completely ended the dominance of the television set. 

Combined with the on-demand feature of all streaming services, this is the ultimate level of convenience since each person is able to choose when, where and how they watch whatever they want. 

It’s not just big platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime that are available on mobile devices either. Everything from PokerStars TV, which has full-length shows and interviews, to Crunchyroll, which is a streaming service for anime, all have mobile streaming options. 

Networks Joining In

TV networks took the approach of “if you can’t beat them, join them”. Most major broadcasters now have their own streaming platforms for viewers to watch programmes on “catch up”. 

This brought the traditional practice of recording shows on VHS to watch later to an end. Instead, viewers could just select shows from a list and watch them at their convenience, any time of the day. 

In the UK, BBC iPlayer is a strong example of this. It offers 30 days of catch up for shows aired on its channels, as well as live streaming of its channels over the internet, and exclusive web-only content from “BBC Three”. 

The BBC also recently entered into a joint venture with commercial rival ITV to launch BritBox. This is a service open to domestic and international audiences and lets customers stream a large library of British TV shows for a monthly fee. 

Changing Habits

This approach was necessary as TV watching is in decline, while streaming is enjoying the opposite. For example, adults are spending an average of 30 minutes per day watching YouTube content, while streaming services are being watched for 26 minutes per day on average. These figures continue to rise year-on-year.

In the UK, BBC One had an average daily watch time of 41 minutes in 2018, but this has been in decline for several years. This is despite TV channels producing significantly more unique content. 

In key markets, around half of all households now subscribe to at least one streaming service, confirming the downfall of traditional TV.