SVOD is Growing Rapidly But is Still in a Minority of UK Households says BARB

Just over 40 percent of UK households are subscribed to at least one subscription video on-demand (SVOD) service, with 49 percent of individuals having access to at least one SVOD, according to UK measurement body BARB’s 2018 SVOD Report.

Netflix is the most popular of the three SVOD services measured, reaching 34.1 percent of households in Q3 last year. Amazon Prime Video lagged behind at 17.2 percent, while Sky’s Now TV reached 5.7 percent of households.

The findings provide some interesting insight into SVOD adoption in the UK – 40 percent is high, but still not a majority or as high as some might assume. A breakdown of the data, which comes from BARB’s Establishment Survey of roughly 53,000 UK households, gives further insight into which households are steering clear of SVOD.

One or two-person households, 70 percent of which have adults aged 55+ present, are less likely than average to subscribe to any SVOD services, suggesting that as might be expected, older consumers are slower to adopt. This is backed up by the fact that households with children of any age are much more likely to subscribe to at least one SVOD service.

The data also shows that consumers belonging to higher socioeconomic groups are more likely to be subscribed to SVOD services. ABC1 households (that is, middle class households as defined by the NRS social grade system of classification) represent 64 percent of households subscribed to at least one SVOD service, but only make of 53 percent of total households.

This over-representation might be a reminder to those of us in the London media bubble that our perceptions of how popular these services are can be skewed by the people we’re surrounded by.

Another interesting takeaway from the report comes from BARB’s measurement of time spent viewing content on SVOD services – or rather, its lack of measurement. BARB records ‘unidentified viewing’ as a subset of TV set viewing, which comprises all TV activity that BARB cannot identify. This includes all SVOD viewing, as no SVOD services have signed up to BARB, but also includes time spent playing on games consoles, time spent watching DVDs, and watching viewing over 28 days after broadcast.

This ‘unidentified viewing’ increased to 19 percent of all TV set activity in September 2018, up from 16 percent the previous year. This suggests that SVOD viewing via TV sets has also increased, but BARB cannot separate it from other unidentified activity.

The measurement company is open about the fact that it cannot be certain how much of this unidentified viewing is spent on SVOD services, and uses complimentary survey data to try and bring more certainty. It finds, for example, that increased unidentified viewing correlates strongly with uptake of SVOD services, suggesting the two are linked. But there’s still a lot of ambiguity – time spent gaming for example will account for a huge proportion of the time, and the fact that these different activities can’t be untangled is a massive gap in TV measurement.

Bridging this gap is one of BARB’s current strategic priorities, but it says to doing so requires the co-operation of the service providers. These companies don’t have a history of transparency with their viewing data – while Netflix has been trotting out viewing figures around its new film Bird Box recently, it has by and large avoided shedding light on its viewership stats.

While it will hope that the SVOD companies decide to cooperate, it is also looking at alternative solutions. The company says it is currently exploring solutions which use meters attached to broadband routers in panel homes, a workaround used by Kantar Media and Nielsen in other markets.

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