UK connected TV viewers increasingly embracing streaming – study

Viewers in the UK are increasingly tuning-in to streaming and connected tv services as their preferred method of viewing shows and content, according to a new survey.

FreeWheel, a Comcast company and provider of video advertising software, carried out a study in collaboration with independent research company, Happydemics, on the adoption and uses of CTV and other media platforms in the UK. 

The study assessed how UK viewers use CTV and their media platform preferences, and sought to understand their attitudes towards video on demand (VOD) and AVOD (advertising video on demand) streaming services. 

The survey was also conducted in Italy, France, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands. Together with the UK, these countries are referred to as the “EU6”.

The survey comes despite the fact that last week Netflix shocked the market when it announced it had lost more than 200,000 subscriptions in the first quarter of the year.

Across Europe, Smart TVs device adoption is rising

However, 60% of EU6 survey respondents access streaming services via a Smart TV, making this device the normal in many family living rooms. 

Streaming services are audiences’ preferred method of accessing premium video content, with the majority (91%) of CTV viewers surveyed watching BVOD (broadcaster video on demand), SVOD (subscription video on demand) and AVOD (advertising video on demand) services.

When it comes to CTV, audiences enjoy having access to a plethora of services. On average, the EU6 CTV viewers who took part in the study access 3.5 streaming platforms.

AVOD is also gaining momentum across EU6. More than two-thirds of EU6 CTV viewers consume AVOD content on a weekly basis.

UK Connected TV audiences prefer direct connections

In the UK, 62% of CTV viewers use the built-in capabilities of their Smart TV – a 12 points increase from the 2021 FreeWheel-Happydemics survey. 

Some 32% of UK CTV viewers, meanwhile, connect their TV sets to the internet through an external device. 

For CTV viewers aged 18-24, this percentage increases to more than half (53%), possibly indicating that external devices such as TV sticks and games consoles are more accessible to this demographic.

The respondents use CTV primarily for accessing long-form premium videos, in particular BVOD services (67%) and SVOD (66%). 

Overall, 89% of CTV Viewers engage with video streaming and watch all kinds of VOD.

connected tv

The three key drivers behind Connected TV adoption

The top drivers behind CTV use are: (1) the ability to watch video content at any time (44%), (2) the social element of CTV (27%) and (3) the quality of the content offered (26%). 

The UK CTV viewers surveyed enjoy being able to watch content with family and friends – co-viewing is an important point marketers should keep front of mind when building their media plans. 

Diving deeper into the findings, the Gen Z respondents primarily watch video content on CTV because of the quality of the user experience, which includes better user interfaces, larger screens, greater sound. 

The quality of the viewing experience is particularly important for 51% of the Gen Z respondents who use AVOD platforms and value the ability to cast content from a smartphone to their CTV.

connected tv 2

Growing appetite for AVOD

When compared to the other markets covered by the survey, UK CTV viewers are the most likely to tune in to AVOD platforms. Notably, the respondents who were SVOD subscribers appear to be the ones using more free streaming platforms such as Pluto.TV or Molotov TV. 

Only 29% of CTV viewers in the UK are willing to pay a premium offer to access content without ads, indicating growth prospects for AVOD and FAST services and that viewers in the UK are reaching their SVOD subscription point.

AVOD is also used frequently, with 71% of survey participants using AVOD platforms at least once a week, and with 31% using them daily. 

The primary reason for using these platforms is cost – 74% of UK CTV respondents state that free access is the main appeal of AVOD, while 38% consider the wide variety of content available to be the determinant factor. 

Opening the door for marketers to launch engaging campaigns in a premium environment to reach all types of viewer from light TV viewers and “mobile addicts” to “binge-watchers”.

connected tv 3
Source: Happydemics for Freewheel, Connected Viewers, All eyes on CTV – March 2022

Premium video offers optimal advertising experience

When it comes to advertising experience, the premium video platforms – AVOD and Broadcasters’ environment, are seen as the most attention-grabbing channels for 63% of CTV users, and are likely to generate the most impact for advertisers, including high engagement, viewability, attention and brand lift.

The 43% of the UK CTV users also showed a preference for ads that reflected their personal interests or hobbies. Those aged 25-34 years old in particular, want ads to be tailored around their lifestyles (28%). 

While there is scope for marketers to tap into viewer receptiveness to personalised messages, the study highlighted that personal data is a strong concern for connected viewers, as 64% of respondents state they are not willing to share their information in exchange for personalised advertising. 

In this data-driven advertising ecosystem it is paramount for the different players to ensure they acknowledge and address users’ concern.

connected tv 4

Stefanie Briec, Director, Demand Sales, UK & International at FreeWheel said: “UK connected audiences are increasingly valuing CTV for accessing streaming services – in particular, through Smart TV, the biggest home screen. 

“Among younger generations especially, AVOD is becoming a regular part of their viewing schedules.

“For marketers, this means AVOD platforms represent a strong opportunity to engage a key consumer segment through premium video environments. 

“With the growing appetite for streaming in the UK, ad-supported services are an important inclusion within the media mix.”