Young Irish viewers abandon television faster than expected

‘Considerably less TV’ now being watched by 15 to 24-year-olds as streaming services gain ground

Maura Higgins and Curtis Pritchard on ITV series Love Island, shown in Ireland on Virgin Media Two and the Virgin Media Player. The series attracts the younger age group that broadcasters increasingly find hard to reach. Photograph: ITV Studios.

Maura Higgins and Curtis Pritchard on ITV series Love Island, shown in Ireland on Virgin Media Two and the Virgin Media Player. The series attracts the younger age group that broadcasters increasingly find hard to reach. Photograph: ITV Studios.

 

Younger viewers are deserting traditional television faster than previously anticipated and turning instead to video-on-demand services like Netflix and YouTube.

In a report commissioned by the broadcasting regulator, media consultants Mediatique said the forecasts it made in 2017 for the average minutes of television consumed by Irish viewers over the five years from 2018 to 2022 now looked too high.

In a 2017 report, Mediatique forecast that 15 to 24-year-olds would consume a daily average of 95 minutes of television in 2018.

In the event, the average daily viewing minutes for this age group last year arrived at 70 minutes. This is already less than where the consultants originally expected their viewing levels would be in 2022. It is also a starkly lower average than the 109 minutes these viewers watched in 2016.

“With the benefit of the past two years of TV viewing data, we can now say that live TV is likely to play a smaller role in total video consumption than we originally forecast just two years ago,” the report states.

Younger people watched “considerably less TV” in 2018 than they did only two years previously, according to the report, which was commissioned by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) as part of a review of its Sound & Vision funding scheme.

Daily viewing minutes among 15 to 24-year-olds declined at a compound annual growth rate of minus 20 per cent from 2016 to 2018, said Mediatique, quoting Nielsen viewing figures from ratings body TAM Ireland.

In the broader 15 to 34 age category, TV viewing has dropped less steeply, going from 129 average daily minutes in 2016 to 100 minutes in 2018.

The decline among the 35-plus age group was more modest, with average daily minutes of TV viewing only sliding from 232 minutes to 222 minutes over the period.

The London-based consultancy said it was “highly likely” that much of the lost TV viewing had been replaced with online video viewing.

Volume of viewing

“Subscription video-on-demand services are likely to have gained reach and a significant volume of viewing, while YouTube and other online video or gaming sites may also have benefitted, especially among younger consumers.”

Broadcasters’ on-demand services, such as the RTÉ Player and the Virgin Media Player, may also have grown their viewing share, Mediatique said.

But it added that these trends were harder to track than the viewing measured by Nielsen, which covers television that is watched live or recorded and then watched back within seven days.

Overall levels of viewing to traditional television channels can still be regarded as strong. In 2018, adults aged 15-plus consumed an average of 184 minutes a day, or three hours and four minutes.

However, the pace of change in the habits of younger viewers is likely to be alarming to Irish broadcasters, given it comes amid intensifying competition from an array of international video-on-demand companies spending billions on content.

Market leaders Netflix and Amazon Prime Video will soon be joined by new streaming services from Disney, Apple and others, making live television a less attractive option for advertisers trying to reach “Generation Z”.