Wednesday 5 August 2020 9:42 am

Coronavirus: Screen time soars as adults spend half their day on devices

A surge in screen time during lockdown saw adults in the UK glued to their devices for more than 40 per cent of the waking day, according to new research.

In its annual study of the nation’s media habits, industry watchdog Ofcom found that adults in the UK spent an average of six hours and 25 minutes on their phones, TVs and laptops each day, resulting in 45 hours of screen time each week.

Read more: Ofcom orders TV, phone and internet providers to stop preying on vulnerable customers

The figure rose almost a third compared to the same period last year, as lockdown forced people to stay indoors for months on end.

Streaming surge

Time on streaming services doubled during the pandemic, as cinemas and entertainment venues remained shuttered during lockdown.

Brits spent on average one hour 11 minutes per day watching shows on Netflix, Disney Plus and Amazon Prime Video at the peak of screen time in April. 

The spike came as a welcome boost for streaming services, with Disney Plus yesterday reporting its subscriber base grew to 57.5m by the end of June, up from 28.6m in February.

The coronavirus crisis proved the perfect time for Disney to launch its streaming service, which debuted in the UK on 24 March — just one day after Boris Johnson introduced a nationwide lockdown.

The streaming trend was particularly pronounced among 16 to 34-year-olds, who streamed for an average two hours each day, Ofcom data showed.

Silver streamers

But lockdown also saw the rise of the so-called silver streamer, with an estimated 12m UK adults signing up to a new video streaming service during the pandemic.

One third of 55 to 64-year-olds, and 15 per cent of people aged over 65 used subscription streaming services in the early weeks of lockdown, up from 25 per cent and 12 per cent respectively before the pandemic.

It comes after the BBC last week scrapped its free TV license for over-75-year-olds, in a move that could see older audiences deserting the public service broadcaster for online services. 

On-demand

Broadcasters’ video on-demand services also saw a much-needed boost in lockdown.

Dramas like Normal People and Killing Eve helped the struggling BBC notch a record 570m programme requests on its iPlayer service in May —  72 per cent higher than in the same period last year.

The BBC also saw a welcome boost in its news output, as the thirst for reliable information soared during the pandemic. The BBC became the most popular source of news in the first week of lockdown, used by 82 per cent of UK adults.

Read more: UK broadband customers to save £270m following Ofcom review

Nick Baker, TV expert at Uswitch, said: “During the strictest part of lockdown many people only left their house for an hour of exercise a day, so it’s not surprising that millions of households turned to TV and streaming services to keep themselves entertained.

“Almost half of people watched more content during lockdown than they did previously, with people viewing an extra 170 million hours a week. And more households turned to streaming services for their entertainment, with spending on subscriptions increasing by a fifth during lockdown.”

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