Traditional television and TV advertising is still alive and kicking – even among those that exclusively use subscription video on demand services (SVOD) such as Amazon and Netflix, new research from YouGov suggests.

The Broadcast to Narrowcast report divides the viewing public up into specific groups based on how they access television content. These include those who exclusively watch through SVOD, viewers who only access programmes and films through Paid TV providers (such as Sky and Virgin Media), and people who just use Freeview and Freesat.

YouGov’s research suggests that while viewers watch TV through a range of providers, it doesn’t automatically mean that the number of people seeing adverts have fallen that much. While naturally those watching only via subscription video on demand providers have access to a wider range of programmes without advertising, they still see TV ads in large numbers.

The report finds that over four in 10 (45%) of those who only access TV through SVOD providers still recall seeing adverts in the television they have watched over the past week. Three in ten (30%) didn’t remember seeing any ads, which is perhaps less surprising given the advert-free nature of much subscription video on demand content.

While the proportion of SVOD-only users that remembered seeing adverts is less than those who only watch through Freeview/Freesat (57%) or Paid TV (63%), it is not as far behind as might be anticipated. This means that, although subscribers to ad-free content platforms are seeing fewer adverts than their peers, a plurality still remember seeing messages from brands.

The data also shows that live commercial terrestrial television still plays a big role in people’s viewing habits, even those who only watch TV through subscription streaming services. The analysis finds that around half have watched ITV 1 (48%) and Channel 4 (51%) through the channels’ apps in the past 30 days. Notably fewer (28%) have watched Channel 5.

Stephen Harmston, Head of YouGov Reports, said: “People watch TV in different ways but it doesn’t necessarily follow that the number of people watching traditional television have fallen that much. These broadcasters and their advertisers need to be realistic but not panicked about the challenge to them from subscription video on demand providers. While the likes of Now TV and Netflix inevitably siphon off some viewers some of the time, they are not taking most the traditional broadcasters’ viewers most of the time.”

YouGov’s data confirms that, in the wake of series such as Game of Thrones and The Crown, the UK is now a nation of binge-watchers – regardless of how they access television. It shows that over half (53%) of people who only watch through Freeview/Freesat and more than four in ten (45%) who view television exclusively via Paid TV services (such as Sky or Virgin Media) watch two or more episodes in one sitting. Among those who only use subscription streaming services, this increases to three quarters (77%).


By Jonathan Davies, editor, Digital Marketing Magazine

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