Britons devoured more than five hours of TV a day in lockdown amid a boom in subscription streaming services.
Staring at screens became a full-time job, with adults spending six hours and 25 minutes – nearly 45 hours a week – on ‘audio-visual content’ in April.
The figures, which also include time spent on computer screens and playing video games, paint a bleak figure for traditional TV channels.
‘Silver streamers’ over the age of 55 have flocked to the likes of Netflix which have already bewitched younger generations.
Ofcom said an ‘accelerated shift’ from TV channels to streaming services is likely to be one of the ‘most significant long-term impacts’ of the pandemic.
It found more than a third of adults ‘can see themselves no longer watching the main TV channels within the next three years’. This rose to more than half of those aged between 16 and 34.
The watchdog’s report said the ‘greatest growth’ during lockdown was enjoyed by streaming services, with existing subscribers watching more and ‘new users embracing [these] services for the first time’.
Ofcom said a staggering 12million adults had signed up to a new subscription service during lockdown, with three million doing so for the first time, including ‘notable rises among older demographics’. Nearly a third of those aged 55 to 64 watched streaming services in lockdown, compared with 25 per cent beforehand. The figure for over-64s rose by a quarter, to 15 per cent.
The Ofcom Media Nations 2020 report said the BBC, ITV and other traditional broadcasters enjoyed an initial surge in viewing figures at the start of lockdown, driven by news coverage. However, this fell away while streaming rivals maintained their momentum.
Disney+ became the third most popular service following its launch in the UK on March 24, the day after the lockdown was announced.
When combined with YouTube, viewing time spent on subscription services was up by 71 per cent in the last week of June compared with the same time last year. Traditional TV viewing was up by just 11 per cent. By June these channels’ combined share of viewing had dropped to 54.6 per cent, the lowest figure since last August.
Traditional TV did, however, receive record viewing figures during the height of the pandemic as demand for trusted news coverage grew.
The Prime Minister’s statement on the easing of lockdown restrictions in May received the biggest TV ratings of the year so far. It was watched by an average of more than 18.7million on BBC1, beating the 14million for his initial announcement of lockdown on March 23 and the Queen’s message to the nation on April 5.
Figures for radio fell by 14 per cent in lockdown, with workplaces shut and few cars on the road.
Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s strategy and research group director, said: ‘The pandemic showed public service broadcasting at its best, delivering trusted news… that viewers really value. But UK broadcasters face a tough advertising market, production challenges and financial uncertainty. So they need to keep demonstrating that value in the face of intense competition.’