Ofcom Media Nations Report - Northern Ireland

Ofcom's annual Media Nations reports look at the viewing and listening habits of people in the UK. The report is based on data from broadcasters, along with research into audience habits. You can download the full report, but we've summarised some of the most interesting findings here:

People in Northern Ireland watched less broadcast TV than those in any other UK nation.

  • On average, people in Northern Ireland spend 3 hours 5 minutes per day watching broadcast television on the TV set.
  • Daily viewing in Northern Ireland declined by 6.9% between 2017 and 2018.
  • Viewing of non-broadcast services on the TV set (such as streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, or gaming) increased by five minutes a day to an average of 42 minutes per person per day in 2018.

Over-54s watch four times more TV than children.

As in the rest of the UK, older age groups watch the most broadcast TV in Northern Ireland (those aged 55+ watch 5 hours 4 minutes on average a day) and children the least (1 hour 13 minutes).

Two-thirds of TV households have a television set connected to the internet.

More than two-thirds (67%) of households in Northern Ireland had some form of connected TV in 2019, 57% in England, 56% in Scotland and 48% in Wales.

Use of streaming services is growing.

Just over half of adults in Northern Ireland (53%) said they used an on-demand/streaming service in 2019. Among these services, Netflix had the most claimed use (41%), followed by BBC iPlayer (23%), All4 and ITV Hub (21% and 20% respectively). Paying for on-demand content does not appear to be a deterrent; nearly half (46.1%) of all households in Northern Ireland had a paid-for subscription-on-demand service (SVoD) in Q1 2019.

There are some major new streaming services due to be launched soon – including Apple TV+ and Disney+ which could push this percentage up higher. However, more than half of all broadcast TV viewing in Northern Ireland in 2018 was to the main Public Service Broadcasting channels, so the traditional channels are still going strong.

TV is still the most popular news-source.

Television remains the most-used platform for news consumption for people in Northern Ireland, with UTV and BBC One being the most-used news sources overall.

For news about their own nation, 52% used UTV, 50% used BBC One, 25% used Facebook, 20% BBC Radio Ulster, and 15% used Cool FM. The highest rated newspaper for daily news was The Belfast Telegraph at 5%, with the Irish News and Sunday Life at 4%

Up to a fifth of respondents in Northern Ireland with a TV in their home claimed to watch one of the Irish channels at least weekly

Each had comparable viewing among our respondents – RTÉ One (20%), RTÉ2 (18%), TV3 (now Virgin Media One, 16%) and TG4 (15%).

Adults in Northern Ireland are more likely than those in any other UK nation to listen to the radio, with 93% tuning in each week.

Local radio accounts for 60% of listening in Northern Ireland, far higher than counterpart stations in Scotland (41%), Wales (31%) and England (31%). (Radio listenership is high in ROI too – with 83% of all adults tuning in on a daily basis)

Listeners can choose from more stations than ever before, but despite this, local radio continues to hit the right note. Local stations - Cool FM, Downtown, U105, the Q Network, Downtown Country and BBC Radio Ulster/Foyle - account for 60% of listening in Northern Ireland, far higher than their counterpart stations in Scotland and Wales

BBC Radio Ulster was the most listened-to radio station across Northern Ireland30 in Q1 2019, with a reach of 32.4% (2018=38.5%), followed by Cool FM at 31.6% (2018=32%). Within the Belfast area, where 60% of the Northern Ireland population live,31 Cool FM had a greater reach, at 37.3% (2018=38.2%). BBC Radio Ulster was the second most popular station with a reach of 31% (2018=36.2%)

DAB and Smart Speakers are getting more popular.

There was a 10% increase in the digital share of listening in Q1 2019 compared to the same period in 2018, the highest growth of any UK nation.

However, listening through a digital platform still only accounts for 39.5% of total listening in Northern Ireland compared to 56.4% across the UK.

DAB take-up is also lower, at 45.9% compared to 66.7% across the UK. The use of smart speakers is increasing in the home. Just over a fifth (22%) of Northern Ireland households own a smart speaker – up 7pp since last year.

The peak time to listen to the radio during the week in Belfast is between 9.00 and 10.00am.

The breakfast and mid-morning shows are the most listened-to programmes on Cool FM and Radio Ulster in the Belfast area. The most listened-to programme at this time in this area is BBC Radio Ulster’s The Stephen Nolan Show. Across the duration of the show32 it reaches 20.4% of the Belfast area, slightly lower than the 21.0% reach across Northern Ireland as a whole. Cool FM has a bigger audience reach than its rivals in Belfast from lunchtime on.

One in five adults have listened to podcasts and listen-again services.

In 2019, Ofcom research shows that one in five adults (22%) in Northern Ireland have used listenagain services or tuned in to podcasts, in line with respondents in Scotland (25%), but a lower proportion than in England (34%) or Wales (30%).25

Ofcom have released their report into what the people of Northern Ireland are watching and listening - and how and where they are doing it. Here's our quick summary of the report - and the implications for the cultural sector.

Download the Report

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