Streaming services topple broadcast television in children’s show market for first time, says report

Children stuck at home during the Covid pandemic watched more programmes on Youtube and Netflix than they did on television, a new report has revealed.

For the first time ever, streaming services toppled traditional broadcast television in the children’s show market. 

On average, children age four to 15 watched around seven hours a week of programmes on television – down roughly an hour from the year before.  

Meanwhile, the use of streaming services exploded during lockdown, going from an average of just under eight hours a week to 11 hours a week in 2020. 

However children did still tune in for big TV events, including BBC’s Christmas Day special Zog and the Flying Doctors – which was the most watched television broadcast in 2020, according to the new report by Ofcom.

Spirit Riding Free – an acclaimed computer-animated series about a young girl and her horse Spirit – Carmen Sandiego – a cartoon about a young female master thief – and Pokemon – a Japanese anime set in a magical world of battling monsters – all proved popular on Netflix.

And on Youtube, children most enjoyed watching funny videos, jokes, pranks, and challenges.

Children stuck at home during the Covid pandemic watched more programmes on Youtube and Netflix than they did on television, a new report has revealed. Pictured: Library image of a family watching television

Children stuck at home during the Covid pandemic watched more programmes on Youtube and Netflix than they did on television, a new report has revealed. Pictured: Library image of a family watching television

Children stuck at home during the Covid pandemic watched more programmes on Youtube and Netflix than they did on television, a new report has revealed. Pictured: Library image of a family watching television

For the first time ever, streaming services such as Netflix (pictured: Library image) toppled traditional broadcast television in the children's show market

For the first time ever, streaming services such as Netflix (pictured: Library image) toppled traditional broadcast television in the children's show market

For the first time ever, streaming services such as Netflix (pictured: Library image) toppled traditional broadcast television in the children’s show market

However children did still tune in for big TV events, including BBC's Christmas Day special Zog and the Flying Doctors (pictured) - which was the most watched television broadcast in 2020, according to the new report by Ofcom

However children did still tune in for big TV events, including BBC's Christmas Day special Zog and the Flying Doctors (pictured) - which was the most watched television broadcast in 2020, according to the new report by Ofcom

However children did still tune in for big TV events, including BBC’s Christmas Day special Zog and the Flying Doctors (pictured) – which was the most watched television broadcast in 2020, according to the new report by Ofcom

Music videos and gaming tutorials were also among the most watched videos on Youtube by children aged four to 15.

The data comes from a new set of reports – released annually by Ofcom – into the media habits of children and adults.

The report, which surveyed 8,000 children under 16, found a huge spike in children viewing videos online during the Covid pandemic.

Children were twice as likely to watch TV programmes on video-on-demand (VoD) than live TV.

Almost all children (96 per cent) watched any type of VoD compared to just over half (56 per cent) watching live TV. 

Average viewing time for online streaming also spiked by 44 per cent, from seven hours and 49 minutes in 2019 to 11 hours and 19 minutes in 2020. 

Average viewing time for traditional TV dropped from 12 hours a week in 2015 to seven hours last in 2020.

According to some of those surveyed by Ofcom, the on-demand nature of streaming services was behind the big switch.

Average viewing time for online streaming also spiked by 44 per cent, from seven hours and 49 minutes in 2019 to 11 hours and 19 minutes in 2020. Average viewing time for traditional TV dropped from 12 hours a week in 2015 to seven hours last in 2020

Average viewing time for online streaming also spiked by 44 per cent, from seven hours and 49 minutes in 2019 to 11 hours and 19 minutes in 2020. Average viewing time for traditional TV dropped from 12 hours a week in 2015 to seven hours last in 2020

Average viewing time for online streaming also spiked by 44 per cent, from seven hours and 49 minutes in 2019 to 11 hours and 19 minutes in 2020. Average viewing time for traditional TV dropped from 12 hours a week in 2015 to seven hours last in 2020

One child surveyed, Ben, aged 13, said: ‘I don’t even know the last time I watched live TV. Probably not since the first lockdown.’

Another, Jack, aged 16, said he enjoyed streaming services because they allowed him to watch shows in ‘binges’ – where someone watches consecutive episodes back-to-back.

He said: ‘I’m not sure what I like about it, it is just one of those things that is addictive. You just watch episode after episode.’

The survey work, which was largely carried out during winter lockdown in England, also looked into children’s use of YouTube. 

Ofcom’s media literacy research found that YouTube was the most-used video-sharing platform among children aged five to 15 for watching content in 2020 (87 per cent).

And research by CHILDWISE highlights YouTube’s sizeable presence in children’s daily lives.

In total, 58 per cent of children said that they used YouTube every day, spending on average almost two and a half hours a day doing so. 

But while use of YouTube was consistent across ages, TikTok (65 per cent), Instagram (65 per cent), Facebook (50 per cent) and Snapchat (53 per cent) were more likely to be used by 12-15s. 

Speaking about Chinese video platform, TikTok, which has seen a huge popularity boom in lockdown, one child who was surveyed said: ‘You go on it for five minutes, and then you end [up] scrolling for two hours.

On Youtube, children most enjoyed watching funny videos, jokes, pranks, and challenges. Music videos and gaming tutorials were also among the most watched videos on Youtube by children aged four to 15

On Youtube, children most enjoyed watching funny videos, jokes, pranks, and challenges. Music videos and gaming tutorials were also among the most watched videos on Youtube by children aged four to 15

On Youtube, children most enjoyed watching funny videos, jokes, pranks, and challenges. Music videos and gaming tutorials were also among the most watched videos on Youtube by children aged four to 15

The report, which surveyed 8,000 children under 16, found a huge spike in children viewing videos online during the Covid pandemic

The report, which surveyed 8,000 children under 16, found a huge spike in children viewing videos online during the Covid pandemic

The report, which surveyed 8,000 children under 16, found a huge spike in children viewing videos online during the Covid pandemic

‘It’s just addictive – once you get scrolling you just keep on doing it – I don’t know what it is about it.’

Meanwhile, according to the findings, almost half of children said they watched vloggers or YouTube influencers.

This was more likely among 8-11s (47 per cent) and 12-15s (49 per cent) than among younger children aged 5-7 (34 per cent).

According to The Insights Family, the choice of vlogger varied by gender; KSI and PewDiePie were the favoured among the older boys (aged 12-15), while Zoella was the clear favourite among girls this age.

The report comes as Ofcom, the UK’s broadcasting regulator, is set to become Britain’s first online watchdog.

The new role will see Ofcom place a legal ‘duty of care’ on online services to protect users from illegal material on sites such as YouTube.

The regulator will be tasked with deciding whether firms have breached the agreement and whether to issues fines or legal action as punishment.

According to reports in the Financial Times in February, the role is set to be temporary until a full organisation is set up. 

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