NI a nation of binge TV watchers, Ofcom report reveals

A general view of the BBC iPlayer's Northern Ireland home page, as research shows that 65% of adults in Northern Ireland use the service.
A general view of the BBC iPlayer's Northern Ireland home page, as research shows that 65% of adults in Northern Ireland use the service.

Northern Ireland has become a country of binge TV viewers, research shows.

Eight out of 10 adults have watched multiple episodes of their favourite shows in a single sitting, according to Ofcom's annual Communications Market Report, due to the growing popularity of streaming services like Netflix.

Jonathan Rose, Ofcom Northern Ireland director

Jonathan Rose, Ofcom Northern Ireland director

While live TV remains important, people are increasingly turning to catch-up and on-demand services.

Jonathan Rose, Ofcom Northern Ireland director, said: "Technology has revolutionised the way we watch TV.

"The days of waiting a week for the next episode are gone, with people finding it hard to resist watching multiple episodes around the house or on the move."

He said live TV still played a critical role as a provider of news.

Despite the increasing popularity of websites and apps, it is still the most important source of news for people in Northern Ireland, Mr Rose added.

Services from the public service broadcasters are the most popular ways of watching on-demand and streaming programmes among adults in Northern Ireland: 65% use the BBC iPlayer and 44% use the ITV Hub.

But, significant numbers use YouTube to watch programmes and films (27%), while 28% now use Netflix and 16% use Amazon video.

The growing popularity of these services means watching multiple episodes back-to-back - or 'binge watching' - is now hugely popular, with 83% of people in Northern Ireland saying they have done this, and a third (32%) doing so every week.

Mr Rose said radio was a real stand out performer in this year's report.

Nine out of ten people in Northern Ireland tune in at least once a week and are listening for longer, "which is impressive when you consider the range of ways we now get our news and listen to music".

He said the public in Northern Ireland was also much more likely to listen to local BBC and commercial radio than listeners in other parts of the UK.

Some 60% of all listening in Northern Ireland is to these stations.

"Local news and programming is obviously highly valued by listeners."

The report said Northern Ireland was increasingly interconnected, with the internet now available and accessed through TV as well as smartphones and tablets.

Other findings included:

:: More than three-quarters of adults (76%) in Northern Ireland now own a smartphone, and nearly six in ten (58%) say their smartphone is their most important device for going online, compared to just over four in ten in the UK as a whole (42%).

:: Ofcom's research also reveals a rise in tablet ownership, with three in five households (62%) now having one.

:: One-third (33%) of households in Northern Ireland now have a smart TV. That's lower than the wider UK average but almost double what it was last year.

:: Four out of five homes (79%) have a fixed-line broadband connection.