Streaming services overtake free-to air TV for first time in Australia

Television on cabinet

Australians have taken their love of streaming services to new levels, with subscription video-on-demand platforms overtaking free-to-air television for the first time on record, data from the Social Research Centre has shown.

The report, which was commissioned by the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications, found that 83% of Australian adults made use of online video services, up from 81% in 2020. The biggest percentage of those viewers came from online subscription services, which was up two points from 60% in 2020 to 62% in 2021.

Conversely, only 77% of Aussie adults were tuning into free-to-air, down from 80% the prior year. Commercial free-to-air was down from 61% in 2020 to 58% in 2021, meaning that subscription services were ahead of commercial television for the first time on record.

The major streamers all saw a growth in subscribers due to their scripted content offerings, with Netflix seeing a slight growth in its audience and Disney+, Stan and Amazon Prime Video all seeing more substantial growth. 

Despite its less impressive growth, Netflix still dominates the Australian streaming market with 67% of respondents subscribing to the service, with second-placed Disney+ claiming just 27% of the market. 

Meanwhile free-to-air was still on top when it came to news and sport, with streaming services failing to build substantial ground over commercial television despite the popularity of streaming platforms such as Kayo Sport. 

The freedom to choose between programs was the largest reason for those relying on streaming services, with the survey finding that 89 percent of people who use a streaming service do so because it allows them to watch content when they want to. 

Aussies also enjoyed the lack of advertisements on streaming services, while the availability of international content and being able to view the latest programs in high-quality were other big sellers. 

For those who stuck with free-to-air television, the ease of access was the biggest selling point, with local and international news, no ongoing subscription costs and the availability of content without internet other big selling points. 

The report also found that subscription and other online services were favoured by younger respondents to the survey, whereas older adults were more likely to access content via free-to-air television. Streaming services were the main source of screen content for children, with a noted decrease in the number of children viewing publicly owned free-to-air television. 

Those making the jump to streaming services need to ensure their home internet connection is up to the task of handling the increased bandwidth. Considering making a switch? Head over to our broadband hub to find and compare providers in your area, or check out some popular plans below.

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Last updated 13 July 2024