Australians switching on streaming, turning off free-to-air TV

Australia’s communications preferences are changing which will impact on the flow of local, national and global content, and might change the way people discover science and news content.

Data released today shows more Australians are regularly watching streaming services than free-to-air television.

Paid streaming services now dominate how Australians watch shows and movies and home, with four in ten Australians watching shows on streaming platforms like Netflix, Binge or ‘mostly every day’ or ‘several days’ a week.

That’s compared to 36% regularly watching free-to-air channels. Traditionally science content has been provided via public television, in programs such as Catalyst on The ABC, or David Attenborough’s BBC nature documentaries.

Queensland University of Technology research published in “QUT ePrints,” details the viewing practices of more than 2,000 Australians surveyed in December 2022.

“The diminishing amount of original scripted content offered by commercial free-to-air services has reduced their relevance to Australians,” says lead author Professor Amanda Lotz.  

“The most common place for people to turn first when they don’t have a particular title in mind is to a paid streaming service,” she says.

The survey is the first of a four-part investigation ‘Watching Series and Movies in the 21st Century’ into Australian viewing attitudes and behaviours, and the challenges for producing local drama.

In contrast, results show only 6% regularly watched shows on DVD or Blu-ray, or paid for downloads. 

The vast majority of respondents (83%) rarely (less than a few times per month) or never went to the cinema.

The survey results show a clear link between respondents age and their use of streaming services. Fewer than 25% of those aged 34 or younger are regularly (everyday or several days a week) watching free-to-air television. 

The researchers found people living in inner city areas, outer suburbs and in regional Australia used free and paid streaming services at very similar frequencies, and at higher levels than people in remote areas.

There was limited take-up of on-demand television services like 10Play, Nine now and iView. Only 14% of respondents used these services regularly. The researchers suggest suboptimal experience – ad breaks, difficult interfaces and search – might be the reason for the poor take-up of these services.

Netflix, channel 7 and ABC television were the most valued services according to respondents. 

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