I’m A Celebrity and the Prime Minister’s lockdown announcement were the most watched television programmes in Northern Ireland last year.
Amid the coronavirus pandemic people were found to have watched more TV last year, and the viewing of streaming services more than doubled in 12 months.
However, according to data from Ofcom, viewing of regular broadcast TV increased, bucking a decline of almost 10 years.
Ofcom’s Media Nations: Northern Ireland report revealed that people in the region spent an average of four hours and 19 minutes per day in front of a television in 2020, up by 36 minutes compared with 2019.
Most of this time was spent watching broadcast TV (three hours, eight minutes), up by 14 minutes compared with 2019.
However, much of the rise in total viewing came from non-broadcast services, including YouTube, gaming and streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, which increased by 46% to an hour and four minutes.
Viewing of these services surged with the introduction of the first lockdown in March 2020 and while this reduced as restrictions eased, it rose again towards the end of the year, peaking in January 2021 at an hour and 29 minutes a day – 94% higher than a year earlier.
More than half of homes in Northern Ireland have a paid-for streaming service, with 2020 a landmark year for subscription video-on-demand (SVoD) services.
UK-wide, subscriptions to streaming services climbed by more than 50% to reach 31 million, up from 20 million in 2019.
Ofcom also found that more than half of households in Northern Ireland (57%) have at least one subscription video-on-demand (SVoD) service from companies such as Netflix, Amazon, Disney+ and Now TV.
Netflix is still the largest, with more than half (52%) of households having a subscription, followed by Amazon Prime Video (27%) and Disney+ (8%).
While older viewers generally watched more broadcast television, younger people watched less. In contrast, viewing of non-broadcast TV, including streaming services, grew among all age groups.
Consumption of news programmes also increased, with the average audience share of BBC One’s early evening Newsline programme at 38.2%, up from 31.7% in 2019.
However UTV pipped the BBC with its evening UTV Live news programme at 44%, up from 39.3%.
Ofcom also found that the reality show I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here! was the most-watched TV programme in 2020, achieving an average audience of 492,000 – a 60% share.
Next was the BBC News Special on March 23 on which Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced lockdown measures, with an average audience of 398,000.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaking at a media briefing in Downing Street
The PM’s May 10 statement announcing a provisional road map for the easing of restrictions, was also in the top five.
Radio continued to be popular in Northern Ireland, with more than eight in 10 people tuning in every week.
Ofcom’s director of Northern Ireland, Jonathan Rose, said the pandemic “accelerated the take-up and use of streaming services”.
“It was also a big year for broadcast TV, with viewing figures rising for the first time in nearly a decade as people tuned into to keep themselves informed and entertained through the pandemic,” he said.
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