How did 2020 change the video world?


Before 2020, there was a fairly consistent story about TV and video viewing.

In TV, overall viewing was pretty stable, but there was a gradual decline in live TV viewing because we had more choice and could spread our viewing across live and on demand – both from the broadcasters and subscription VOD (SVOD) players like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

In online video, there was jockeying, but YouTube was clearly the big beast and largely unchallenged.

But that was before 2020. As with pretty much every sector, 2020 made a mockery of predicted TV and video trends.

Throw in Disney+ (good time to launch) and TikTok (good time to exist) and this year’s analysis of the video world is anything but predictable.

Below are the key points. But if “below” is too far away and you want to waste no time in becoming conversant instantly, here are some headlines to write on your sleeve:

  • All forms of TV grew in 2020 – yes, live TV too
  • Broadcaster TV advertising accounted for 91% of all video advertising
  • YouTube accounted for 5.6% of video advertising
  • From nothing, TikTok took 3.5% of video viewing time (1.4% of video advertising)
  • Broadcaster TV continues to be the largest single portion of video viewing (incl. for 16-34s)
  • The TV set is the home of high quality content

All forms of TV saw growth in 2020

It isn’t surprising that our need for entertainment increased in 2020. Our Lockdown TV study explained why.

This thirst for escapism and distraction helped every form of Broadcaster TV (live, on demand and playback) grow by 5% year on year. That’s an extra 10 minutes viewing per person per day. The average person watched 3 hours, 22 minutes of broadcaster TV a day.

It was a similar story in SVOD, where the average time spent viewing grew by 11 minutes per person per day – a 50% growth year on year (obviously coming from a much smaller base than broadcaster TV). The average person watched 35.5 minutes of SVOD a day.


Total video time grew by 40 minutes a day

When we expand the picture to look at all forms of video, we see that total video time grew by a significant amount in 2020: 40 minutes per person per day. Most forms of video (even DVDs) saw a year on year increase.

The obvious exception here is cinema, which saw a 75% drop in viewing time through no fault of its own. We’d expect this to be temporary and that cinema will bounce back once normality resumes.

New entrant TikTok had a pretty significant impact for its first full year and accounted for 3.5% of all video time in 2020. YouTube increased its share from 12.5% in 2019 to 13%. And Facebook fell slightly from 1.2% to 0.9%.

One trend that wasn’t changed by 2020 is the difference between 16-34s’ video consumption and the UK average. TV (broadcaster + SVOD) accounts for 75% of the average video day compared with 56% for 16-34s. Within this, broadcaster TV continues to be the largest single portion of video viewing, both for 16-34s and all individuals.

YouTube dominates the online video space accounting for over half of 16-34s’ time spent with online video. TikTok however made significant inroads, claiming a 9% share of all 16-34s’ video time and 20% of their time spent with online video.


BVOD is vital to younger audiences

Breaking down broadcaster TV into the different ways it can be accessed reveals the increasingly important role of broadcaster VOD for younger audiences, now 19% of all broadcaster TV viewing. It also shows that anyone writing off live TV is nuts and needs to understand why people watch different types of TV and video.


The TV set is the home of high quality content

If we cut the data to just look at time spent watching video content on the TV set, an interesting picture emerges. 

Walk into a living room and find the furniture not facing the TV and you’re walking into a strange land. And the focal point of our living rooms continues to account for the majority of our video consumption: 76% among all individuals and 53% among 16-34s. 

And what we watch on it shows that the TV set is the home of high quality, professionally produced content. Broadcaster and subscription TV dominate, accounting for 94.1% of TV set viewing.

Whilst the TV set is a growth area for YouTube and now accounts for roughly 25% of all its usage, YouTube accounts for less than 5% of total TV set time.


TV accounts for 91% of all video advertising

Now, while understanding how our video day breaks down is interesting, what really matters to those of us in the advertising world is where our ads get seen. The fundamental job of any medium is to help advertisers get their message across, in full (ideally with sound).

Some forms of video don’t feature any advertising, the BBC and the vast majority of SVOD being the obvious examples. And you probably don’t want to advertise within porn, do you? No.

So here’s the breakdown of where video advertising was actually seen in 2020:


Why is YouTube so small?

This is a question that gets asked a lot. And you can understand why. YouTube is undoubtedly a big player in the video viewing world, but this doesn’t carry over to the viewing of advertising on YouTube.

TV’s scale and breadth of high-quality content means it has the capacity to cater for thousands of advertisers simultaneously.

YouTube, however, doesn’t put advertising across a vast amount of its inventory and the majority of viewing to YouTube is to its very long tail. Also, many ads on YouTube are skippable and some users have installed ad blockers for .com viewing of YouTube.

And a word on TikTok. It has burst onto the video scene in the last 12 months and we estimate it accounts for 1.4% of video advertising viewing (see methodology below – this is likely an over-estimation). As a relatively new platform whose content is largely user-generated, ensuring brand safety / brand appropriateness will be a priority for any advertisers considering it.

Broadcaster TV advertising breakdown

By breaking the broadcaster AV advertising time down by type, we can see that whilst live TV is the primary means of getting ads seen, both playback, where ads are watched back at normal speed within recorded content (N.B. advertisers only pay for ads watched at normal speed), and BVOD make up a significant chunk of ad viewing time – especially amongst younger audiences.


The video charts look different from before – why?

This is true. The main difference, other than the addition of TikTok, is that this year we have represented broadcaster TV in the side-by-side analyses of video viewing and video advertising viewing as a single form of video. We’ve then created a separate chart that looks at the three types of broadcaster TV. We’ve done this for a number of reasons.

Firstly, it makes the side-by-side comparison of different forms of video more like-for-like. Since we started doing this analysis, we have never split YouTube or Facebook up into their live and on demand viewing, but we did for broadcaster TV.

Secondly, it makes it easier to understand how broadcaster TV is consumed if you look at it separately (rather than as three chunks of an already busy visualisation of video viewing).

And thirdly, doing this will hopefully encourage a more clear-eyed view of today’s multiplatform TV and how people move fluidly between different forms of viewing. TV today is so much more than live TV alone and this makes that clear, telling the story of broadcaster TV in its entirety.


We do this analysis because we love crunching enormous amounts of data there’s no single source of measurement across all forms of video. Yet.

We take the best available data from credible industry sources like the IPA and comScore and use it to estimate how the average person’s video consumption looks – and the average for 16-34s.

We’ve been doing it for some years now and we present it as always with the same caveat: if you can improve on our methodology please talk to us; if you have better data sources we can use, tell us about them. We want to make this as accurate and representative as possible.

Anyway, here’s how we do it:

Video viewing time analysis

The quantitative analysis of total video consumption in the UK combined 2020 data from BARB, comScore, Pornhub, the IPA’s Touchpoints and Rentrak box office data.

BARB data shows how much time is spent viewing broadcaster content, live or time-shifted on the TV set (via digital recorder and VOD). It also records how much time the TV set is being used for other activities such as SVOD, DVDs and gaming. However, BARB is unable to determine what the splits are between each of these different activities.

To determine these, we used Touchpoints 2020 to calibrate the BARB data. This survey provides estimates for the time spent split by the different TV set activities and also provides estimates for how much time is spent viewing this content on other devices such as tablets, smartphones, and laptops.

The combination of these sources creates a solid estimate as it utilises the robustness of BARB’s data (12,000 panel members, representative of the UK TV population, metered actual consumption data, analysis across a whole year) alongside the detailed splits of viewing activity provided by Touchpoints diary data.

To estimate YouTube, as comScore multi-platform data doesn’t include viewing on TV sets from connected TVs or games consoles, we add in the volume believed to be missing based on Touchpoints data.

As comScore multi-platform data is not available across all sites, the missing portion of mobile viewing for Facebook and other online is calculated from Touchpoints data.  There is no comScore data available for time spent watching TikTok, so we have used the relative size of Tik Tok to YouTube based on Touchpoints data and applied this to the total estimate of YouTube (based on the comScore data for mobile/.com and missing % of TV set viewing from Touchpoints).

comScore data is increasingly under-reporting time spent with online porn.  The adult sites have adopted newer video players that prevent comScore from being able to track time spent watching this type of video (unless they specifically tag their players with comScore tags – and most don’t). Therefore, for 2020 estimates of online porn viewing, we used 2019 as a base and applied the growth rate reported by Pornhub.

Our analysis also used census level broadcaster stream data to estimate the time spent watching Broadcaster VOD on both the TV set and other devices. Broadcaster first party and survey data was used to estimate the relative size for 16-34s.

Time spent viewing video at cinemas was based on box office sales from Rentrak. 16-34 estimates were generated from the Touchpoints profile data of Cinema goers.

All data is weighted to the entire population based on ONS UK population estimates.

Video advertising analysis

YouTube ceased supplying data on the number of ads served as of January 2017.  As a result we have had to model the amount of time spent viewing advertising on YouTube based on the relationship between time spent viewing YouTube content and time spent viewing ads on YouTube according to the comScore panel. 

For 2018 and 2019 data comScore were able to provide us with the relationship between the number of YouTube videos started and the number of ads started and the average duration of viewing to content and ads so we could determine the amount of time viewers spent watching ads on YouTube. We asked comScore to repeat this analysis for 2020, however, due to ‘a change in their agreement terms with YouTube’ they were no longer able to provide an estimate on average ad duration.


So, for 2020 we have reasonably assumed that YouTube ads are viewed for a similar ad duration as they were in 2019.  We were still able to use 2020 to determine the relationship between content starts and ad starts, which will take into account any change in ad loads.

For 2020 data we have modelled a viewer per view factor of 1.2 for YouTube to account for the increased TV set viewing.

TikTok: There is no data available on the amount of time that people spend watching ads on TikTok, so we have determined this by assuming that TikTok has the same relationship of ad viewing to content viewing as YouTube (2.3% of all viewing time).  This is likely generous to TikTok, as their ad format is instantly skippable whereas YouTube’s has a skip option after 5 seconds.

Other online video: this includes everything else outside of YouTube & TikTok, including Facebook and all auto-play advertising across all publishers as reported by comScore. This is also up-weighted to estimate mobile consumption using Touchpoints 2020 data.

Cinema data is based on Rentrak box office sales and an estimate of 10 minutes ad viewing per film

Broadcaster VOD data is based on impression delivery provided by all broadcasters from their player data alongside average ad impression view-through rates to estimate total time. For 2020 data we have included a viewer per view factor using data from ‘The bigger picture research’ to account for the additional viewing generated by big screen VOD. 

Playback and Live TV is based on BARB data.

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