U.K. viewers now prefer streaming to pay TV, survey finds

Mike Wheatley

Video streaming provider Roku Inc. has published the findings from a study that shows British TV viewers now favour streaming content from services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video over traditional pay TV. The company argues this means that streaming is now the future of TV.


The study, “The Streaming Decade”, was conducted by National Research Group on Roku’s behalf an found that nine out of 10 U.K. viewers are streamers versus just seven out of 10 who still subscribe to pay TV services like Sky, BT and Virgin Media.

The trend rings true even among older viewers who might have been more likely to be ‘hold outs’ against the newer concept. In fact, 77% of 57 to 70 year-olds watch streaming content regularly. In that age bracket, 31% said they’d signed up to new streaming services in the past 12 months. And almost two-thirds of 57-to-70 year-olds agreed streaming represents better value, has greater variety and is more convenient than pay TV.

Further evidence of the preference for streaming comes from the finding that 66% of audiences would choose streaming versus 23% who’d choose pay TV to watch “something that everyone’s talking about.”

Loyalty is a big thing among video streaming fans too, with almost two-thirds of consumers saying they have never ‘subscription cycled’, which means signing up, cancelling and then signing up again.

Moreover, just 3% of respondents said they’re planning to cancel a subscription to a service they’ve already signed up for.

Roku said the research shows viewers overwhelmingly feel streaming offers them “premium content opportunities”. A case in point is live sports, coverage of which is no longer dominated by pay TV providers. Some 51% of respondents in the survey said they watch live sports through streaming services, versus 55% who get their fix from pay TV. Film buffs meanwhile have a strong preference for video streaming, with 68% of consumers citing access to a new movie release as a reason to sign up for a new service.

Such is the popularity of video streaming that it now represents a golden opportunity for advertisers. Exactly half of the survey respondents say they regularly watch free, ad-supported streaming services. Of those ad-funded video-on-demand viewers, 21% said they have downgraded the pay TV services they use in the previous 12 months. The research also found that 80% of ad-funded video-on-demand viewers regularly watch streaming content while using a second, usually mobile, device. That could present interesting opportunities for cross-screen advertising, Roku said.

Roku’s report also revealed that many Brits have become ‘telly addicts’ once again. It could be argued that pre-pandemic, TV had lost its allure somewhat with the emergence of smartphones and other devices, but the survey found that more than half of respondents plan to watch as much TV as they did during pandemic, even when COVID-19 restrictions go away.

Roku Vice President International Mirjam Laux said the survey findings suggest the popularity of video streaming in the U.K. has reached a “tipping point” and that it has now become a normal practice for all consumers, regardless of age.

“With more and more new and interesting content available to consumers, streaming has become the dominant force,” Laux said. “And where consumers go opportunities for brands to engage them with compelling, best-in-class advertising that’s relevant to their interests. Streaming is clearly the future of TV.”