Research reveals rural/urban ‘streaming divide’

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Taking advantage of Broadband & TV bundled deals will help to bridge ‘the streaming divide’, recent research shows, suggesting that the new breed of ‘altnets’ and challenger Internet Service Providers (ISPs) have the most to gain from this.

  • Up to four in five rural respondents would like more than ‘broadband only’ offers from broadband providers, but the lack of gigabit-capable broadband availability currently prevents them from accessing the popular streaming services the rest of the nation enjoys
  • Scottish respondents were twice as likely to have no streaming subscriptions at all compared to London – unsurprising given that up to 24 per cent of some areas of Scotland have broadband speeds of under 15Mbps, compared to 0.82 per cent in London
  • However, this streaming divide can be closed by greater availability of gigabit-capable broadband – if altnets and ISPs offer broadband + streaming packages to consumers, the 1.1 million live altnet customers predicted by PointTopic at December could be underestimating demand – particularly as the same data shows that altnets will have the potential to deliver gigabit-capable broadband to 6.6 million households by the end of 2021
  • This Fibre connectivity catch up of under-served parts of the UK is good news for consumers and ISPs but also great news for the popular entertainment streaming services who will find in those areas new audiences and extra growth.

New YouGov data has revealed stark contrasts in consumer trends for TV and streaming services between urban and rural areas in the UK.

The data, commissioned by Netgem, the ISP partner for TV and WiFi mesh services, found that  79 per cent of rural respondents are unsure or are considering switching to an ultrafast broadband package that included streaming services as part of the bundle, and only 21 per cent would not consider it.

This is despite the fact that only 25 per cent of these same respondents currently had a TV and broadband package. Research from the Centre for Business and Research (CEBR) earlier in 2021 found that upgrading rural broadband could lead to 500,000 people moving to rural areas – the YouGov findings show that the transformative benefits of gigabit capable broadband would also bridge the streaming divide.

This trend was not limited to rural areas, as 57 per cent of 18–24-year-olds, 62 per cent of full-time students and 59 per cent of households with one or two children outlined that they would be more likely to switch to a broadband provider that could include these services as part of the overall package. The conclusion here is that faster broadband speeds and a mix of free and premium streaming services as part of this package are an appealing option for households, particularly in rural areas.

The data also revealed a ‘streaming divide’ between certain parts of the UK, with perhaps the biggest difference between Scotland and London. The results showed that Scottish respondents were twice as likely to have no streaming subscriptions compared to Londoners. As good, reliable broadband is needed to watch most streaming services, it is perhaps unsurprising that there is such a contrast between Scotland and London, given that average broadband speeds in London are over twice as fast as Scotland, and some parts of Scotland have up to 24 per cent of areas with broadband speeds of under 15mbps, compared to just 0.82 per cent of London.

While the Prime Minister’s promise of full fibre for all by 2025 may have been slightly ambitious, recent PointTopic research suggests that altnets are ramping up deployment, with altnets making gigabit-capable broadband available to more than 4 million additional properties by the end of 2021, to a total of over 6.6 million households. With take up of ultrafast services by altnets predicted to hit around 1.1 million households by the end of the year, this new data suggests that the figure could be even higher if altnet providers could offer greater choice to customers, including bundled streaming services.

According to the research, there is undoubtedly a great opportunity to grab a greater portion of the market share for any broadband providers who can offer streaming services as part of their package to customers. Equally, this opportunity extends to streaming services and the partners who can capitalise on this market, as this YouGov research shows a discrepancy between the number of subscribers and the demand for streaming services with their broadband.

“Today’s findings show that there is a clear link between slow average broadband speeds and lack of uptake in streaming services,” notes Shan Eisenberg, CCO at Netgem. “The research shows that the demand for ultrafast broadband and streaming services is there in rural areas, so there is a huge opportunity for the Altnets to fill this gap in the market and bring consumers in underserved areas of the countries the Fibre and TV streaming bundles that are so successful everywhere in the country.”


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