Blog News, tips & advice from the UK's streaming experts

The how, what, and why of UK consumer video viewing

Not too long ago I stumbled upon a resource Google provides called “Think with Google.” They leverage their immense pile of data gathered from their search engine and other sources to provide insights to anyone that wants them. The data and analysis is provided for different industries, and usually is based on a global picture.

Much of what they have is Google-centric – trends on YouTube and the like – but sometimes you can find something that is a little more widely interesting. That’s the case with the Consumer Barometer. It provides data on consumer’s habits from what devices they use to what items they want to shop.

The tool is interactive so you can select different options to create charts of the data and understand it all more easily. I dove in and focused on UK consumers, their habits, and feelings when it comes to watching online video. Read on to see the results.

Devices used

The first thing I looked at was what sort of devices people use most often to watch video. In chart 1, you’ll see how often people watch on their smartphone.

video usage on smartphones

With all the hype about mobile and video, I find myself surprised that 21% of people don’t watch video at all on their smartphone. And there are fewer daily users than I would have expected too.

Next I looked at how often people watch video on their tablet. The results were similar to the smartphone, but with even less daily viewers and still more that never watch video.

video usage on tablets

Finally I looked at how often people watch video on their computer.

video usage on computer

These results were similar to the tablet results, though slightly more people use the computer on a daily basis. But what is surprising is this overall statistic of how often people watch online video in chart 4.

numbers watching online videos

See what I mean? On average, or “in general”, 33% of UK consumers watch video daily! So it’s likely that people do watch more on a daily basis than the individual device charts might show, but they just don’t remember what device they use so the numbers don’t quite match. But the good news is that consumers in the UK do watch on all types of devices.

Viewing Behaviour

Beyond just what devices they use, it’s good to know more about when consumers watch, why they watch and how long they watch. With this type of information it’s much easier to put together plans for your video content creation.

So first off, when do consumers watch?


Far and away the most watched time during the week is in the evening, and the least watched times are very early or very late. This data makes sense because people are getting ready for work first thing, and getting ready for bed in the late evening (or perhaps are already asleep!). Are weekends any different for consumers?

weekend image6

For the most part, the pattern is the same on weekends, but with less viewing in the evening and slightly more in the afternoon. Even fewer people watch video first thing in the morning on a weekend. Perhaps they’re sleeping in?

Why people watch

Perhaps some of the most important information you can have when planning any video content is what motivates viewers to watch in the first place. In the data from Google, people could choose more than one option, but it’s still clear what is most important to viewers.

reasonswhy image7

Entertainment is the number one reason people watch video. In second place is the desire to relax or escape. You might argue that if you combine “to learn something new” with “to pursue a hobby” you’d get a different answer for second place. I think there is probably some overlap there, and we know that how-to videos are some of the most popular.

Now that we know why they are watching, I was curious to see how focused people are on their videos. After all, I’m constantly reading about second screens and multitasking consumers.

focus image8

It turns out that UK consumers are pretty darn focused. Only about 25% were attempting to multitask during their video. That’s great news for video content creators who work so hard to get their videos seen.

How long and where

What sort of video are consumers watching? Google’s data didn’t have all that much detail, but we can see how long they watched and make some deductions.

long image9

Over half of the consumers watched very short videos. About one quarter watched up to ten minutes, and the remaining quarter watched longer than ten. Short-form videos rule the day. Cute kittens, talking animals, and music videos could be the most popular. But instructional videos, or how-to videos, are often short too. Without additional information it isn’t possible to say exactly what types people like to watch the most – only that they prefer it to be short!

The final chart I have for you is about what connection consumers use to stream their videos.

source image10

The Google data again only provides a brief glimpse at where people might be watching their videos. The question in chart 10 only deals with the last online video session, so the answers may not be what people would normally do. And even though 71% of people stream over WiFi, there’s no way to know if they are at home, sitting in the local pub, or even the Tube. I would go out on a limb though, and deduce that people using mobile devices are watching video over WiFi given the low percentage using a mobile network. There’s nothing in the data to confirm that, but I suspect it’s true.

The Think with Google was pretty fun to play with and see the variety of data you can get out of it. I’d summarise all the data here in one sentence: Most UK consumers watch videos over WiFi at least weekly in the evening, on any device, in order to be entertained. Do you agree?

Oliver Burt

Sign Up For Free Account