IAB UK Video on Demand Trends: Audience insights during the coronavirus pandemic

Posted on Monday 16 August 2021 | Antonio Forte - Industry Initiatives Executive, IAB UK

We have all felt the impact that the shift to a home-working economy has had on our lives. With restrictions on where we can be and what we can do in our free time, our behaviour has been altered to an unprecedented degree in a very short amount of time. Understanding and acting on these changes in consumer behaviour gives advertisers the best chance of adapting to the new way of the world, and of weathering the current challenges.

Through analysis of consumer trends provided by our members, we are attempting to understand how audiences are reacting to these changes across digital, and to help our members tap into the opportunities that have presented themselves across growth channels during the crisis.

In part three of our exploratory series, I will be taking a look at video on demand (VOD), with the aim of shedding some light on an emerging market that has seen a drastic uplift in consumer demand in recent months.

Firstly, we must understand why VOD is ideally placed for an increase in interest during this period. As people adjust to home working, they typically have more time to discover and explore new sources of entertainment. As we’ve seen with similar increases in demand for gaming and audio content, this has aided the acceleration of on-demand and user controlled consumption.

We can also see a clear change in what consumers have been looking for as we enter the second stage of the lockdown. The demand for live news spiked interest in linear TV during the first few weeks of the UK lockdown. However, as people have acclimatised to the new normal, we have seen a shift towards escapism content via entertainment on demand.

Taking a closer look at the numbers behind this, we see increases in VOD activity across the board. A recent BARB study reported a 100% increase in “other activity through the TV”, which largely consists of SVOD (subscription video on demand) and gaming. This study also highlights that people are watching for longer periods, with sessions lasting 53 minutes a day longer than the same time last year.

This complements data supplied by Rakuten that states that 38% of UK consumers are now watching over three hours of VOD every day. The same study also highlights that 40% of UK consumers expect their viewing of video community sites (such as YouTube, TikTok and Twitch) to increase in the next month. A study by Kantar supports this, stating that online video and TV on demand/streaming consumption has increased by 40% and 38% respectively during the crisis. Interestingly, this trend rises to 60% and 51% respectively amongst the 18-34-year-old demographic, indicating a larger shift in behaviour amongst younger age groups.

A report from Dentsu Aegis has broken these numbers down further, providing insights on sub-categories within VOD. Regarding broadcaster VOD, Channel 4 has seen an increase in viewership of 57%, Sky of 52% (48% for movies) and ITV of 30% (from data taken a week earlier than Sky and Channel 4). SVOD services have seen increases across the board, dominated by Amazon, Netflix and Disney+. No UK figures have been released for SVOD subscriptions, but the US numbers have shown a 32% increase in buys according to Market Watch. Finally, the report shows that advertising video on demand (AVOD) has seen spikes in ad inventory of around 30% across the major players in the area, including Samsung TV, Roku, Rakuten and Pluto TV.

As marketers, we must consider what opportunities are created from this huge increase in interest in VOD. Ad-free platforms such as Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon Prime make up a large part of this growth, but AVOD alternatives are becoming increasingly appealing as people demand more content than ever and approach subscription saturation. Rakuten’s research has highlighted that 60% of UK consumers are interested in AVOD services, but that only 37% are currently aware of any AVOD offerings. Continued growth in this area will provide increasing opportunities for brands looking for new ways to communicate with consumers through video, but with 18% of UK consumers already stating that their use of AVOD will increase in the next month, there is already value to be found for savvy advertisers.

The trend is similar when we look specifically at social video. In insights shared by Tubular, we can see that demand for social video has increased as people are bound to their homes, with average video views on YouTube in Europe up 10% since the lockdown started. This increase can be attributed to significant growth in certain areas, such as health & fitness content (up 145%), people & lifestyle content (up 48%) and music content (up 47%). A similar trend can be seen across streaming, as people have more free time to access live video content. Live streaming views on YouTube are up 12%, with notable rises in news & politics content (up 151%) and gaming content (up 58%) as people look to both remain informed and entertained in such a trying time.

Companies offering AVOD are beginning to gain traction as they start to establish themselves as key parts of brands’ media plans across the UK. As long as the messaging strikes the right tone, AVOD can help these brands to successfully meet the need for escapism in these trying times and tap into a new way of engaging with audiences.

IAB UK during Covid-19 Podcast Episode - listen here.

The Insights



Observations of Covid-19’s effect on linear & video consumption during the UK’s unprecedented lockdown, both present and thoughts to the future.



Roku’s lessons from the US about how consumers are changing the way they consume TV in a streaming world.



Rakuten Advertising data highlights appetite for video on demand services powered by ads, as consumers seek escapism during the COVID-19 pandemic.



TV and Video consumption in the new normal from Kantar. What audiences say and do - and how we respond.

tubular logo


Tubular shares insights into social video during lockdown, from average views on YouTube, to growth in certain areas such as health and fitness. 

Written by

Antonio Forte

Industry Initiatives Executive, IAB UK


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