TV channels suffered their steepest EVER decline in viewers

Is this the beginning of the end of traditional TV? Viewers switch off BBC and ITV as they turn to ‘snackable’ TikTok content and ‘all-you-can-eat broadcasting buffet’ on streaming rivals like Netflix and Disney+

  • Audiences for soaps and news bulletins are hit as older people switch to Disney+
  • BBC and ITV remain most viewed channels, despite a steep fall in viewership 

Viewers are switching off traditional television at record rates, with even loyal over-65s ditching the format for an ‘all-you-can-eat broadcasting buffet’ on streaming rivals like Netflix and Disney+.

With more competition than ever from streamers, the proportion of Brits watching a programme on broadcast TV each week dropped from 83 per cent in 2021 to 79 per cent in 2022 – the sharpest decline since records began, according to Ofcom’s Media Nations report.   

Fewer people than ever before are tuning into the main channels, with news bulletins and soap operas failing to attract the audiences they once did. 

And while it’s no surprise that 16 to 24-year-olds are more likely to watch ‘snackable’ ten-minute content on TikTok and YouTube, the research also found the average length of time the over-65s spent viewing linear TV was down 10% year on year. 

‘Today’s viewers and listeners have an ‘all-you-can-eat’ buffet of broadcasting and online content to choose from and there’s more competition for our attention than ever,’ said Yih-Choung Teh, from Ofcom.

Figures obtained by Ofcom show the big channels have been losing their audience over time 

Meanwhile, streamers have been on the rise, led by Netflix and Amazon Prime 

The research suggests 48 programmes averaged over four million TV viewers on streaming platforms in 2022, with ‘Netflix accounting for the vast majority’ (Pictured: Millie Bobby Brown in Netflix series Stranger Things)

England’s loss to France in last year’s World Cup quarter final was the UK’s most viewed television event of 2022 with 16.1million viewers


The most viewed moments from 2022 were as follows:

‘Our traditional broadcasters are seeing steep declines in viewing to their scheduled, live programmes, including among typically loyal older audiences, and soaps and news don’t have the mass-audience pulling power they once had.

‘But despite this, public service broadcasters are still unrivalled in bringing the nation together at important cultural and sporting moments, while their on-demand players are seeing positive growth as they digitalise their services to meet audience needs.

Older viewers seem to be diversifying their viewing habits, with the proportion subscribing to Disney+ up from 7 per cent to 12 per cent.

Part of Disney’s appeal to older viewers may be thanks to a spate of reboots of classic British entertainment, including comedy film The Full Monty.

Only Murders in the Building starring Steve Martin has also proven to be a hit with those aged over 64 – whose demographic watching Disney+ rose to 12 per cent last year, up from seven per cent in 2021.

This jump has helped Disney+ reach a goalpost of seven million subscribers, according to The Times, putting it on an even footing with Netflix and Amazon Prime, whose figures have remained flat.

The figures reveal a decline in TV viewership even among the core audience of over-65s 

Research into a typical TV journey shows viewers most often begin with BBC or ITV, before switching over to rivals – spending the longest amount of time on Netflix

The Ofcom Media Nations 2023 said the average time spent watching broadcast television per person per day fell from two hours 59 minutes in 2021 to two hours 38 minutes the following year.

Despite the sharp dip in traditional broadcast viewing, more still tune into BBC One and ITV1 than watch Netflix on a weekly basis, while ratings on BBC iPlayer and ITVX are up. 

Public perception of the public service broadcasters is still positive, with 69 per cent saying they were satisfied with them. They still ‘bring the nation together’ at important moments, added Ofcom.

The number of shows with over four million TV viewers has more than halved over the past eight years since 2022, which reflects fewer people tuning in to watch early and late evening TV news bulletins as well as a steady decline in viewing figures for the three most popular soaps, Coronation Street, EastEnders and Emmerdale, Ofcom said.

13.2million viewers watched as the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II was carried out of Westminster Abbey after the late monarch’s  State Funeral on September 19

The late Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations last year were the third most viewed television event of 2022 (Pictured: Prince Louis of Cambridge holds his ears as he stands next to Queen Elizabeth II to watch a special flypast from Buckingham Palace balcony)


The research suggests just 48 programmes averaged more than four million TV viewers on streaming platforms in 2022, with ‘Netflix accounting for the vast majority’, the report said.

Ofcom’s research also suggests there is a significant decline in average broadcast TV viewing among the ‘core’ older audiences aged 65+, as they become more likely to take up streaming services.

The research suggests viewers recognise that PSB channels deliver ‘broadcast events that bring the nation together for a shared viewing experience’, with England’s quarter-final in the Fifa World Cup, the State Funeral of the Queen and the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in the top three spots on the 2022 UK’s most-watched programmes.

Similarly, PSB’s video-on-demand services BBC iPlayer and ITVX continued to grow.

There also seems to be a decline in ‘mass audience’ programmes, which unite households and bridge the generation divide, with the number watched by audiences of four million and over now just half of what it was eight years ago. 

The original cast of The Full Monty returned for the new Disney+ television series (pictured L-R: Steve Huison as Lomper; Mark Addy as Dave; Robert Carlyle as Gaz; Hugo Speer as Guy; and Paul Barber as Horse)

Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez star in the gripping mystery drama Only Murders in the Building, which has attracted viewers over 65 to Disney+

The early and late evening news bulletins and soaps have all taken a hit. Overall soap audiences are down 42 per cent since 2014.

The research also found under 25s are spending nearly an hour on Tiktok every day.

The social media platform’s usage rate remained steady as the number of visitors expanded – attracting 45 per cent of people aged 15 and over, up from 36 per cent in 2021.

The biggest increase was from the 25-34 demographic, with 5 million viewers each week ahead of 4.2 million the previous year.

This age bracket was also found to spend 36 minutes each day scrolling watching short-form video content last less than ten minutes.

Despite the sharp dip in traditional broadcast viewing, more people still tune into BBC One and ITV1 than watch Netflix on a weekly basis (Pictured: This Morning hosts Dermot O’Leary and Holly Willoughby)

The early and late evening news bulletins and soaps have all taken a hit. Overall soap audiences are down 42 per cent since 2014 (Pictured: Max Bowden and Jessie Wallace in BBC One’s EastEnders)

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