Why on-demand entertainment is now more popular than live programming

on demand

The UK has quickly become a nation of streamers following a surge in popularity in on-demand services during the pandemic. No longer does the traditional prime time programming on live TV represent what the vast majority of people are watching. On-demand entertainment and its ability to fit around increasingly hectic schedules is what people value the most.

Recent research by Ofcom found Netflix had become more popular than pay TV services such as Sky for the first time in 2021 and that overall, the number of streaming subscriptions skyrocketed 50% to more than 30 million. Whether it’s YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+ or Apple TV, viewers now have a huge variety of entertainment choices when they sit down for an evening.

This contrasts significantly with entertainment offerings 20 or 30 years ago, when there were only four or five terrestrial channels and millions tuned in to the same programme at the same time each evening. Even soaps, which were among the most popular viewing events, are now typically viewed on catch-up services.

Broadcast TV has been on a steady decline, with older generations more typically inclined to stick with set programming compared to younger generations who want to watch their favourite shows and movies at a time of their own choosing. This is highlighted by the fact that 16 to 24-year-olds in the UK spend just over an hour watching broadcast TV compared to the three or more hours of older age groups.

Another trend that is prevalent today is multitasking or viewing multiple screens at once. Viewers are accustomed to watching a show while also reviewing the best sites for online betting in the UK on a smartphone or laptop. The ability to pause on-demand TV and come back to it later allows viewers to play games and make bets, and become more involved with different forms of entertainment over an evening, rather than being captive to a fixed, live TV schedule.

Another reason why on-demand is becoming more popular is the quality of content available on subscription platforms. BBC is no longer the only destination for high-quality, big-budget dramas. The “streaming war” has led to different platforms greenlighting expensive shows to entice new subscribers to sign up and keep existing subscribers satisfied. Amazon’s new Lord of the Rings show, for example, has a colossal $465m budget. It is no surprise that on-demand is gaining more attention with so much investment.

The on-demand trend is evident in other countries too. The latest US Media Consumption Report found on-demand streaming has become more popular than live TV for the first time ever. While the younger “zoomers” that are driving that trend are heavy streamers, “baby boomers” are also turning to more on-demand online channels for entertainment. This appears to be a trend that will only strengthen over time as streaming platforms continue to grow. 

Ultimately, on-demand is popular due to its unparalleled convenience. It’s a sort of life hack that allows people to watch what they want when they want, and fit shows and movies around work and life in a more seamless way.

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