By mid-January, trying to remember what you watched over Christmas might feel a bit like recalling how many bottles of wine were consumed. Fortunately Barb, the UK’s TV measurement body, has released its December viewing data, allowing us to see what the nation was watching between meals and arguments.
This also marks the second year that Barb has measured Netflix viewing, alongside other streaming services and video sharing platforms, so we can see how SVOD consumption stacks up against the incumbent broadcasters.
YouTube ate into SVOD and broadcaster viewing
Crunching the numbers for December 2023, the broadcasters saw their share of total viewing fall by around 3 percent YoY, leaving them with a 63.66 percent viewing share. The share of SVOD/AVOD viewing rose just 1 percent, taking 17.34 percent of viewing in December. And as streaming consumption plateaus, video sharing platforms (such as TikTok, Twitch and YouTube) are increasing their lead, climbing 2 percent to take 19 percent of total viewing.
Netflix lost ground (but still beat Channel 4)
Looking specifically at the Netflix numbers (Barb’s figures include both SVOD and ad-funded viewing), the streaming giant saw its viewing share fall very slightly. Netflix took a 9.13 percent share of total monthly viewing, down from 9.19 percent in December 2022. Conversely, Disney+ viewing gained slightly compared with last year, but still lags some way behind Netflix with a 3.95 percent share.
Netflix continues to account for over half of total SVOD viewing, and also managed to capture a larger share of viewing than Channel 4, whose share dropped to 6.19 percent. The BBC and ITV also lost ground, according to the data, falling to 20.70 percent and 13.21 percent of viewing respectively.
Streaming seldom bothers the top 50 titles
Barb additionally lists the most-watched programmes each week, and like last year, streaming titles are conspicuous by their absence. For the two-week period covering Christmas and New Year, Netflix snuck into the top 50 once, when Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget became the 50th most-viewed title during the week before Christmas. By way of comparison, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York placed 43rd in that week’s rankings, when ITV aired the 1992 film on Christmas Eve.
For the week encompassing Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve, the most-watched titles were the New Year’s Eve fireworks, followed by Call the Midwife and Doctor Who on Christmas Day, all on BBC One. Interestingly, Barb retracted claims that one million viewers tuned into the fireworks on GB News, noting that similarities between different channels’ audio feeds may have caused misattribution.
Event TV still delivers
The figures show that although broadcaster viewing is in decline, it is not losing out to streaming so much as video sharing platforms, with YouTube likely the main driver. While streaming is still on a gradual rise, the fragmented, individual nature of SVOD viewing tends to prevent single titles from gaining nationwide traction, which explains why Barb’s top 50 is largely dominated by ‘event TV’ such as soaps, Strictly Come Dancing and of course Rick Astley Rocks New Year’s Eve.
Meanwhile ITV’s Mr Bates vs the Post Office and its political impact have renewed discourse around the power of broadcast TV. And while Barb has yet to release its data for January, ITV claims the programme delivered their best ratings for a drama since lockdown.