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How the pandemic has changed the media consumption habits of Brits

How the pandemic has changed how Brits consume media

Covid-19 has significantly altered the global media industry. Leading advertisers have paused or cut their ad spend, media agencies have cut staff, and the pandemic has even caused the postponement of film and TV productions and the closure of some newspaper publishers.

New insight from YouGov shows that the way Britons consume media has been altered too, as behaviours and habits, either created or accelerated from the pandemic, begin to take hold.

Key findings

  1. Covid-19 increased average weekly viewers for streaming (+8%) while live TV (-2%) and on-demand decreased (-4%)
  2. Proportion of Britons who listen to podcasts increased to a third in 2020 (33%), with comedy the most popular genre (16%)
  3. Print magazine consumption halved between 2019 and 2020 (41%, 26%), print news readership fell 9%
  4. Popularity for mobile/tablet news apps grew by 4% to rival print as Britons preferred news source (29%)

Streaming increase

In 2020, streaming viewership saw a sharp increase as Britons were confined to their homes. Average weekly viewers in 2019 were at 50%, but increased to 58% in 2020. Comparatively average weekly viewership for live TV fell by 2% (88% to 86%) and on-demand TV fell 4% (79% to 75%). However, the average time spent watching streaming content a week increased by 36 minutes among 18-to-24-year-olds.

GB: TV & Streaming average hours per week (among viewers)

Podcasts rule

2020 was also a year for podcasts, which benefitted from an audience who were bored and looking for new ways to entertain themselves.

The proportion of those who listen to podcasts increased to 33% on average in 2020, up from 27% in 2019, with comedy (16%) and music (12%) podcasts the most regularly listened to.

Less popular media

Whilst podcasts saw growth, YouGov data shows a noticeable decline in commercial radio listenership from 59% to 55%. BBC radio listenership also fell 7 points to 48%, likely impacted by reduced commuting and increased working from home. Three in ten Brits said they expect to work from home more in future in August (31%), up from a quarter in May (26%).

Print magazine consumption saw a severe impact from the pandemic, which almost halved between 2019 (41%) and 2020 (26%). Print news readership also saw a significant drop from 45% to 36%. Digital readership however remained steady among both magazines and newspapers, dropping 2% each to 33%.

Many changed their main source of news too through the pandemic – in fact all but one source of news became less popular in 2020 with only tablet or mobile apps increasing their usage. Television is still overwhelmingly the main source of news at 62% but this is down 3% on 2019. Radio is next at 41% but that saw a steep decline from 48% in 2019.

Those getting their news from a specific news website has stayed broadly the same at 38%, only down 1% on 2019. Those getting their news from social media stayed the same at 30%, while those getting their news from a news app or tablet rose by 4% from 25% in 2019 to 29% in 2020.

GB: News Sources (last 28 days)

Social networks

Usage of social networks didn’t change between 2019 and 2020 – the proportion who said they had used these platforms in the past month stayed at 84%.

With increasingly more Britons concerned about their household financial situation and the prospect of a recession, this poses huge challenges for brands and advertisers looking to achieve a return on investment and reach consumers in the right channels, at the right time and with the right message.

Commenting on the research, Jules Newby, sector head of media at YouGov, says:“The pandemic has forced many Britons to spend significantly more time in their homes and this has in turn affected how we listen, read, watch and generally consume various forms of media; TV continued to dominate but other forms have seen sharp increases, such as video streaming and podcasts, whereas others, like print magazines and newspapers, have seen a steep decline.

“Another aspect of the media landscape that’s seen a significant shift is how Britons source their news, with news apps growing in popularity and all other sources becoming less popular. For those in the media industry, this raises all sorts of questions as to whether the pandemic has accelerated changes that were happening already or if these habits will return to normal as society does.”


YouGov’s International media consumption report 2021: Is there a new normal? analyses consumers’ attitudes and behaviours around the international media landscape. The report is based on more than 18,000 interviews across 17 global markets.

Fieldwork was conducted in November 2020. For British findings, data is national representative and the sample size was 2,078 GB adults.

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