Netflix viewing grows 45 per cent as binge watching and video on demand gain in popularity

Netflix CEO Reed Hastings famously said that the company’s biggest competitor is sleep, as IPA president Sarah Golding reminds us in relation to the trade body’s new Touchpoints survey, which shows Netflix viewer numbers up 45 per cent over the last year, while sleep times remain unchanged at eight hours 11 minutes a night.

Regular TV fell to a 67 per cent share of viewing, down from 70 per cent the previous year, and for 15-34s it’s now just 41 per cent.

Most of us (52 per cent) like to binge watch and 37 per cent of us do it via paid on-demand services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Sky Store, Now TV and iTunes, which now have more subscribers than pay TV services like Sky, BT and Virgin Media put together.

Netflix is now the sixth most-watched channel after BBC 1, ITV, Channel 4, BBC 2 and Channel 5 — ahead of Sky channels — which signals that the shake-up of the TV ecosystem is gathering pace.

Where is an advertiser to go? Particularly when ITV’s big Sunday night drama, Vanity Fair, gets only three million viewers, compared to 10 million for The Bodyguard (pictured) over on BBC 1?

Netflix is dipping its toe in the advertising water with skippable “promotional videos” (although all ads are skippable these days with a bit of planning and a PVR). This development can only end in Netflix selling regular advertising, which will have the benefit of being 100 per cent addressable, thanks to its customer database, as well as keeping monthly subscription costs down.

ITV’s advertising revenue fell five per cent last year, and although it will probably have a better 2018 thanks to the World Cup, the channel can take little credit for that – the 26 million people who watched England play Croatia in the semi-final had no choice but to tune in to ITV. The commercial channel is trying to stay competitive with plans to launch its own streaming service and by generating more income through ITV Studios, which ironically produces some of the BBC’s biggest hits – including The Bodyguard and Poldark – and gets to sell them internationally.

Any channel is only as good as its last hit show, and that can be unpredictable. Much as the British public loves Netflix original series like The Crown and Stranger Things, it was re-runs of Friends that went straight to the top of the Netflix UK chart when it was added to the service this summer.

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