In this report, we examine the completion rates of every scripted series since 2018 across all the major UK broadcast channels.

Comparing scripted programmes across different channels by overall viewing is difficult as these numbers are affected by promotion, prominence, competition, the quality of online player UIs and availability.

The rate that series are completed—viewing of the final episode as a proportion of the first episode—eliminates these and allows comparison.

In March 2019, the UK government consulted on a wider TV advertising ban until 9pm for food and drink high in fat, salt, and sugar (HFSS), to combat childhood obesity. The government may shortly publish the results more than one year later.

TV and TV advertising are not the cause of children being overweight or obese (O+O). Policy change in this area should inform and educate parents and young children, as they have in Leeds and Amsterdam.

With 64% of the UK population being O+O, obesity is a complex societal issue requiring a multifaceted approach. The evidence from existing rules, and plummeting TV viewing amongst children, says that further restrictions on TV advertising will be ineffective in curbing the rise of obesity in the UK.

Even with lockdown continuing and competition for time still almost non-existent, linear viewing is heading back towards 2019 levels after its big, early boost

The inevitable fatigue around COVID-19 news, along with the growing staleness of the TV schedule caused by content supply struggles, are behind the decline

Unmatched TV set use, made up predominantly of streaming and gaming, has held onto much of its growth, not affected by many of the challenges that linear schedules face. This trend will inform future viewing patterns

The UK lockdown since mid-March has boosted TV time to levels not seen since 2014, with broadcast TV and online video each growing by nearly 40 minutes/person/day.

While trends vary significantly by demographic, news consumption has been a common catalyst for linear TV’s growth, benefitting the BBC above all. Although Sky News has also flourished, Sky’s portfolio has been seriously impacted by the lack of live sport.

2019 extended many of the long-running trends of the last decade, but, notably, online video’s growth rate appeared to slow among youngsters, in contrast to older demographics. 35-54-year-olds watching more VOD will have significant implications for linear broadcasters down the line.

When we look back at consumer expenditure on pay-TV and alternative entertainment options during past economic downturns across major countries, we find a broad confirmation of the industry’s comparative resilience.

Also found are variations between services sold through annual contracts and cancel-anytime rivals, a negative impact on big-ticket products, and opportunities for substitutional services.

Unique features in the current crisis include the suspension of sport broadcasts and an SVOD-rich offering which widens consumer options. If hardship persists, incumbents like Sky could face tougher times than during the financial crisis.

Although increases are moderate so far, it is inevitable that overall video viewing will rise given a reduction in competition for people’s time. So far, unsurprisingly, TV news consumption has ballooned while unmatched viewing—a proxy for SVOD usage—has increased.

However, disruption to production of TV content and cancellation of live events will leave holes to fill in the schedule.

Flexibility is built into some types of programming, however nothing can replace live sport, while disruption in the production of scripted programming—especially high-volume soaps—will have knock-on effects that continue for years.

With the UK perhaps Netflix’s most valuable market outside the US—home to a stellar production sector—the streaming service is escalating its foray into local production, opening a content hub in London and moving from co-productions to direct commissions

As UK content completely dominates UK video viewing outside of the SVODs, to expand subscription reach Netflix is endeavouring to become an alternative to the PSBs’ entertainment output; this local spend is efficient given the universality and worldwide appetite for British content

With a growing proportion of local content expenditure now coming from Netflix and other SVODs, there are ramifications for both broadcasters and producers—loss of viewing, potential market pressure, increased competition for premium content and hesitancy around their own SVOD plans—along with implications for the cultural landscape

There is a belief in some quarters that there is space for a myriad of large SVOD services in the UK. We question whether there is room for more than the current three pacesetters; Netflix, Amazon and NOW TV

Like the UK, the US market is dominated by three services, and there is evidence of an appetite for further offerings. But the US market is conspicuously different to the UK's, with the forces behind cord-cutting in the States less apparent this side of the Atlantic

Potential domestic UK services would struggle to compete with the resources—supported by debt-funded and loss-leading models—that foreign tech giants can marshal

PSB SVOD

The Public Service Broadcasters (PSBs) have been mulling a possible SVOD service, a decade after their ad-supported Project Kangaroo was blocked on competition grounds

Even if a reboot between the BBC and ITV were this time to be approved, we do not think Kangaroo 2 can succeed as a significant SVOD entrant in its home turf of the UK, above all because it’s too late

Other flaws in the offer are that it would be too small, non-premium, too old (archive), and too old (viewing profile), plus lacking sufficient financial resource to produce a pipeline of unique series

The TV, the main screen in the house, is rapidly becoming connected to the internet, opening a new front in the battle for people's attention

Tech players, pay-TV operators, and manufacturers are all aiming to control the user interface, ad delivery and data collection, leaving incumbent broadcaster interests less well represented

To protect their position, and the principles of public service broadcasting, broadcasters will have to work with each other at home and in Europe to leverage their content and social importance