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Report: UK consumers’ commercial media usage declines

March 16, 2023

The commercial media usage of Britons is declining, with consumers spending the best part of an hour less time consuming curated commercial media since 2015, and a quarter of an hour less than pre-lockdown 2020, according to a new IPA report, Making Sense: The Commercial Media Landscape (Fifth Edition), which pinpoints how, where and when commercial media is being consumed and asserts the need for diverse media plans to achieve optimal consumer engagement.

Meanwhile, there is a 29 per cent fall in the similarity of media habits between the generations year-on-year as consumers revert to behaviour seen before the pandemic in 2020.

Younger generation drives fall in time spent with curated commercial media

According to the data, the amount of time all adults (aged 16+) are spending with curated commercial media per day has fallen by 51 minutes since 2015, from 5 hours 35-minutes to 4 hours 44-minutes. This is down by 15 minutes since pre-COVID in 2020. This equates to a 15 per cent decrease over seven years among all adults and a 5 per cent decrease since pre-lockdown 2020 IPA TouchPoints data.

Media habits diverge across generations

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic fuelling a significant convergence of media habits, as outlined in last year’s IPA report, this latest data shows this trend is now reversing.

Last year there was a 52 per cent correlation in the commercial media usage behaviours of 16-34s and over 55s in terms of reach. This year, this correlation has dropped by almost a third (29 per cent) to 37 per cent, down from the 39 per cent seen in 2020 pre-lockdown, revealing that the different generations of consumers are reverting to their pre-COVID media habits. In 2015, the correlation between these generations was 44 per cent.

Time with digital media platforms soars for younger generations

While for all adults (aged 16+), the balance of commercial media time share is 51 per cent vs 49 per cent in favour of digital, this is most extreme for 16-34s and least extreme for those aged 55+.

  • 16-34s spend 80 per cent of their commercial media time with digital media platforms, a 10 per cent increase since pre-pandemic 2020.
  • Among 35-54s, 52 per cent of their commercial media time is spent with digital platforms, which is fairly unchanged from 53 per cent in pre-lockdown 2020.
  • In comparison, those aged 55+ are still spending the vast majority of their curated commercial media time with non-digital platforms and only 28 per cent of their time with digital platforms, the same amount as in pre-lockdown 2020.

Consumption of Other Online Video and Commercial BVoD, alongside increased smartphone usage continues to fuel digital media take-up

There has been a significant increase in the amount of time spent watching Other Online Video (classed as any commercially funded online video which is not made available by a UK broadcaster, such as YouTube and Vimeo) and Commercial BVoD.

For all adults (16+), there has been a 16 per cent increase in share of curated commercial media time spent watching Other Online Video since pre-lockdown 2020, up from a 6.9 per cent share to 8.0 per cent this year. In 2015, this media time share stood at 1.9 per cent.

While TV set viewing has remained relatively constant since 2015, the share of curated commercial media time consumed on smartphone among all adults (16+) has increased by 60 per cent in this same time period – up from a 20 per cent of curated commercial media time share to 32 per cent. In pre-lockdown 2020, smartphones occupied a 29 per cent share of curated commercial media time.

“The disruption of the past few years has seen further fragmentation of the media landscape alongside an overall decline in curated commercial media opportunities which makes it increasingly complex to effectively engage with consumers and optimise media spend accordingly,” says Simon Frazier, Head of TouchPoints Marketing & Data Innovation, IPA. “Accurate, detailed data and diverse media plans are therefore crucial.”

“Looking forward, while consumers’ time with curated commercial media has decreased overall, I think things are set to change again in the coming months and years, particularly with the increasing shift of SVoD players such as Netflix and Disney+ towards part ad-funded revenue models.”

“Despite a lukewarm initial reception in the industry regarding audience scale and CPMs, I believe this will represent not only a substantial revenue generation stream for the likes of Netflix, but also a potential new opportunity to reach previously walled-off audiences on a scale that only the BBC could rival if it were to pivot the same way. This is something we will cover in-depth in next year’s Making Sense publication,” he confirmed.


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