State of the Nation:
UK Digital TV Report 2021

May 2021


The UK television industry remains at the forefront of broadcast technology and digital television innovation, despite the challenging global circumstances. UK companies have continued to provide world “firsts”, building on previous notable achievements in the digital television landscape, further enhancing consumer experiences.

The dynamism of the UK television and video sector has been augmented by the acceleration in streamed video uptake across the broader UK population over the last year. DTG and Futuresource’s “State of the Nation” consumer survey, suggested that broadcaster VoD (BVoD) services are used by three-quarters of all online adults, whilst 79% use at least one SVoD service, complementing traditional broadcast viewing.

Viewing and industry trends witnessed prior to the pandemic have become increasingly evident since Coronavirus hit. A shift towards IP-based viewing has led to further fragmentation of viewing and platforms, partly driven by global streaming services driving additional consumer choice. With this trend expected to continue moving forwards, the UK television industry must continue to embrace collaboration to maintain its significance and stature on the global stage.

As a result, UK consumers have increased their investment across in-home entertainment experiences. In total, consumers spent £5.6 billion on TV Sets, Set-Top Boxes and Media Streamers last year, up 13% on 2019. TV Set sales alone grew by 17%, the highest annual growth in a generation.

In addition, a total of £12.0 billion was spent on Pay-TV and SVoD subscriptions, home video and the TV licence in 2020, flat compared with 2019, despite a 5% decline in licence fee collections.


With connected hardware and streaming service uptake increasing, consumers are looking for seamless solutions to increase their enjoyment in a fragmented viewing landscape. Easy switching between apps and channels is cited by 69% of UK online respondents as an important factor when buying their next TV, whilst consumers also cite features enabling ease of finding content as key improvements they would like to see.

With multiple service and platform use expected to increase amongst consumers moving forwards, the industry will look to implement solutions to improve the simplicity of experiences, including pan service/platform, search and discovery. Indeed, industry executives surveyed by the DTG highlighted that a focus on improving user TV viewing experiences had a high potential for a focus for innovation within the UK, broadly in line with what consumers deemed to be important.

In particular, these areas related to viewing within an environment of growing OTT consumption and choice, e.g. integration of broadcast and IP services, addressable advertising and universal search and discovery of content.

The integration of broadcast and IP services is seen to be crucial to improving these experiences within the industry. Over 9 in 10 industry executives surveyed by the DTG highlighted this as a strong potential focus for digital TV innovators in the UK, strengthening the industry feeling that it has the highest level of potential compared with other areas.

Consumers are also looking for improvements in their audio experiences, citing inconsistent audio levels and difficulty in hearing dialogue as particular annoyances. However, 40% of UK online consumers say they watch with subtitles some or most of the time, and that exceeds half of all 16-35 year olds.

Whilst SVoD services generated £2.4 billion in consumer spend in 2020, total TV advertising revenues were over twice as large. With connected device uptake continuing to witness an impressive trajectory, addressable advertising was once again a key area of focus for the television and advertising industries in 2020, with the industry survey once again indicating it has a high level of potential focus for innovation.

ITV’s launch of its Planet V addressable advertising platform in October 2020 is further evidence of broadcast commitment here.

Many consumers remain cautious of addressable TV. Although half don’t mind targeted advertising, many have concerns regarding privacy, particularly amongst older consumers.

Environmental sustainability has become a key pillar for many large firm’s corporate responsibility. Steady progress is being made in addressing sustainability within the television and video industry, across both content and hardware.

Televisions alone consumed an estimated 5.4 TWh (terawatt hours) of electricity in the UK during 2020; this is expected to increase 9%, to 5.9 TWh, by 2025 due, in part, to the increased popularity of UHD TV sets. However, the carbon intensity of TV viewing is anticipated to rise by only 3%, as new screen technologies and advanced video codecs deliver greater efficiencies.

Emissions produced by data centres servicing streaming services are an area of particular focus as consumer viewing hours increase. Resolution is a factor in carbon intensity: streaming video in 720p to an HDTV produces around 19% fewer emissions than streaming in native 1080p resolution.

Only around one-third of UK consumers believe that their choice of video service has an impact on the environment, yet 40% of consumers say they would stream at a lower quality to reduce emissions, with tech-savvy consumers more likely to consider this.

AI has become an important influence amongst the video supply chain, unlocking a range of opportunities for the content creation and broadcast industries. With the UK government publishing its AI roadmap in January 2021 and the UK being home to one third of all of Europe’s AI companies, AI has become an important hotbed of innovation for the UK television and broadcasting sector.

The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) is being gradually phased out. By September 2023 all analogue and ISDN telephone lines will cease being sold, and the UK-wide replacement of PSTN will be completed by December 2025, effectively migrating all consumers to broadband.

Telcos and broadcasters are likely to use this transition to their advantage by offering television services over IP. Likewise PSBs may leverage the extended broadband access for hybrid television coverage, employing standards such as DVB-I to deliver TV programming. Meanwhile, 5G networks continue to develop in parallel, offering further opportunity for fixed-wireless broadband access. Ofcom completed clearance of the 700 MHz spectrum in August 2020, with auctions happening during March 2021.



Dynamism Amongst Landscape & Consumer Behaviour More Evident Than Ever

Whilst 2020 proved a challenging year for the television broadcasting industry worldwide, disruption inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic also stimulated opportunity and innovation across the UK TV landscape. The dynamism of this landscape has been increasingly evident in the past year, as the robustness of relevance of the UK’s FTA and Pay-TV sectors was supplemented by the accelerated uptake of premium content streaming across all corners of the population. SVoD is now in 60% of households, up from 50% at the end of 2020, with BVoD uptake also increasing and three-quarters of UK adults using a BVoD service in the last month.

The unique combination of characteristics that the UK TV industry possesses has been further augmented. Connected hardware adoption has reached new levels as consumers have provided record investment in in-home entertainment experiences. Infrastructures have advanced further and proved their resilience amongst record demand. Content and service availability have reached new heights, whilst the UK’s world-renowned production standards have been maintained and further enhanced in challenging conditions. All of these have been possible through a continued thirst to innovate and collaborate.

Continued Drive for Television Innovation Shifts to IP

The UK’s reputation for television and technological innovation has been further amplified. Key innovation in production techniques, advertising technology and streaming experiences from UK companies have enabled even richer viewing experiences than ever before.

The major global trend at a market and consumer level in 2020 in the industry has been the notable acceleration in streamed video consumption and uptake. This has also been evident in the UK despite the already well-established industry behaviour. With this behaviour anticipated to further progress, the need to embrace hybrid broadcast and IP-delivery models is more pertinent than ever.

The cornerstone of the success of the UK television industry is collaboration. In a landscape that is increasingly fragmented, and as global services take an increasing share of viewing time, collaboration both within television and with adjacent sectors, such as AI and video codec development, is crucial in maintaining the UK’s position as a front runner in television innovation.

The industry desperately requires a roadmap to achieve a hybrid commercial model, building a solid foundation ahead of the transition to full IP in future. DVB-I is one of the standards that can help enable this.

Operators might expect to require multicast IP alongside adaptive bit-rate encoding for live video. This is more efficient; however, the move to fibre networks changes the equation. Although there are clearly higher bandwidth requirements for unicast video, the technology proved reliable during the COVID-19 pandemic and is continually being refined and improved for IP-based VoD.



  • 1996:

    D-Book published (DTT technical specification)

  • 1998:

    Kingston Communication launches UK’s first VoD service

  • 1998:

    DTT launches

  • 1998:

    Sky Digital launches

  • 1999:

    Cable & Wireless Communications launch UK’s first digital cable service

  • 1999:

    BBC Red Button launches

  • 1999:

    Sky Sports broadcasts worlds first interactive football match

  • 2001:

    Sky+ launches

  • 2002:

    Freeview launches

  • 2005:

    Sky Mobile TV launches

  • 2006:

    Channel 4 launches world’s first broadcaster VoD service

  • 2006:

    BBC launches world’s first interactive daily news bulletin

  • 2006:

    HD channels start broadcasting

  • 2007:

    BBC iPlayer launches

  • 2008:

    Freesat launches

  • 2010:

    Sky launches Europe’s first 3D TV channel

  • 2010:

    Virgin partners with TiVo

  • 2012:

    Netflix launches in the UK

  • 2013:

    Digital switch over completed

  • 2013:

    YouView launches

  • 2013:

    Netflix becomes available on Virgin Media TiVO boxes.

  • 2014:

    Sky launches AdSmart

  • 2014:

    Sky launches Buy & Keep model world’s first widely-available VoD movie & DVD hybrid service

  • 2015:

    Timeline launches Europe’s first purpose-built UHD 4k outside broadcast truck

  • 2015:

    BT Sport Ultra HD Channel launches, Europe’s first dedicated UHD channel.

  • 2016:

    Sky Q launches

  • 2017:

    Sky trials world’s first non-live TV broadcast in Dolby Atmos

  • 2017:

    BT Sport broadcasts UEFA Champions League Final in Virtual Reality

  • 2017:

    Channel 4 launches world’s first VoD adverts with personalized audio & 360-degree video

  • 2018:

    UK Basketball game the first fully-automated live stream using AI

  • 2018:

    Virgin Media broadcast UK’s first 4K HDR broadcast

  • 2018:

    Channel 4 launches world’s first AI driven TV advertising technology

  • 2018:

    EE & BT Sport demonstrate first live broadcast with remote production over 5G

  • 2018:

    Gravity Media & Snell Advanced Media launch world’s first uncompressed UHD IP remote production trial

  • 2019

    BT Sport launch world’s first HDR streaming service

  • 2019:

    EE stream world’s first augmented reality concert over 5G

  • 2019:

    First UK broadcast insert over 5G by the BBC

  • 2019:

    BBC develops world’s first ever interactive factual programme, using object media technology

  • 2019:

    Britbox is launched by ITV

  • 2020:

    BT Sport and Samsung broadcast first UK 8K live sports event

  • 2020:

    BBC to launch its own Voice Assistant

  • 2020:

    Sky announces net zero carbon target by 2030

  • 2020:

    Sky News produces world’s first fully remote news programme

  • 2020:

    ITV airs “Isolation Stories” - new format drama recorded in lockdown

  • 2020:

    BT Sport first to provide Dolby Atmos for live streamed content across multiple connected devices

  • 2020:

    ITV launches Planet V addressable advertising platform



Whilst worldwide patent filings relating to TV plunged by 32% in the pandemic-affected year of 2020, the UK’s contribution was relatively robust in comparison, down just 11% to a total of 93.

The UK has a strong base for innovation relating to TV, with filings last year revealing the current focus.

Video encoding/decoding, streaming media distribution and proposed improvements to the user interface involving the EPG and/or remote control, were once again prominent topics in 2020 filings.

Canon, Sony, V Nova, the BBC and Sky were all prominent applicants.

In addition, over half of industry executives surveyed by the DTG felt the level of digital TV innovation being pioneered in the UK is growing, suggesting an even more optimistic tone compared with the findings a year previously.



37k people work in the broadcast industry, 24% of whom are on the technical and engineering side.

Source: Ofcom, Diversity and equal opportunities in television – UK broadcasting industry reports, 2018 and 2019/20.

In addition to this, 121k people work in motion picture, video and television programme production, including activities related to sound recording and music publishing.

Source: Office for National Statistics: Employees in the UK by industry 2019, (2020).

10,327 companies are involved in the television business, ranging from the major broadcasters to numerous small companies and sole traders such as aerial installers and camera hire firms.

Source: Futuresource Consulting analysis, March 2021.

TV production revenues totalled £3.3bn in 2019, up 10% on the year before with international revenues growing by 32% to 1.25bn.

Source: PACT, UK Television Production Survey 2020.

Commercial broadcaster revenues in 2019 totalled £10.9bn, down 4% year-on-year.

Source: Ofcom Media Nations: UK, 2020.

TV advertising spend totalled £4.93bn in 2019 and is estimated to have fallen by 9% in 2020 to £4.44bn.

Futuresource Consulting analysis; The Advertising Association/WARC Expenditure Report April 2020 and Press Release 26 Jan 2021.

£2.5bn was spent by PSBs on first-run programming in 2019, down 4% year-on-year.

Source: Ofcom Media Nations: UK, 2020.

BBC TV licence revenues totalled £3.5bn in 2019/20, down 5% year-on-year.

Source: House of Commons Licence Fee Statistics.

Consumers spent £5.6bn on TV Sets, Set-Top Boxes and Media Streamers last year, up 13% on 2019.

Source: Futuresource Consulting analysis, March 2021.

£12.0bn was spent by consumers on Pay-TV and SVoD subscriptions, Home Video, and the TV licence fee in 2020.

Source: Futuresource Consulting analysis.

Innovation in technology, as well as content, underpins this activity: 59 UK companies and individuals were named in the filing of 93 TV-related patents at a worldwide level last year.

Source:: Futuresource analysis of patents filed on ESPACENET.




Whilst the UK was already experiencing a shift in video and television viewing behaviour, the pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home measures have further accelerated the growth in IP-based viewing but also significantly boosted television and content consumption across all platforms and services combined.

The impressive diversity of the UK television and video market has expanded further. Overall viewing has reached new levels, as consumers try new services, platforms and even genres, with awareness heightened. This diversity and fragmentation were evident in the December 2020 wave of Futuresource’s ‘Living With Digital’ survey, which showed that viewing types that were less dominant such as social media video, transactional digital video, and even watching DVDs, showed an increase in viewing share compared with July 2020.

With broadcaster VoD services flourishing and FTA television robust, the UK’s unique mix of quality free and paid-for content has again been evident.

Indeed, with ~90% of UK adults now streaming at least monthly, the sheer variety of IP services has driven the share of IP-based viewing to 49% of all viewing in the UK, according to Futuresource’s Living With Digital survey. This is an increase from 44% a year previously.

This OTT viewing represents over 70% of total viewing amongst 16-25-year-olds and approximately 30% amongst over 55’s – although it is this latter demographic which has been a key overall driver of consumption.

SVoD Adoption Continues to Impress

SVoD continues to be the key driver in the shift toward IP-based viewing. At the end of 2020, there were over 40 million SVoD subscriptions taken in the UK, which is a record 12.5 million annual additions. The pandemic further accelerated the existing momentum, as staple services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime Video witnessed further gains, supplemented by new service launches such as Disney+ and broadcaster-backed services, including Britbox and ITV Hub+.

SVoD accounted for a 19% share of total viewing at the end of 2020, growing from 15% a year previously. The over 55’s have been key in driving overall SVoD growth in 2020; amongst 56-65-year-olds,  SVoD’s viewing share increased from 9% to 16% of total viewing between July and December 2020 alone.

With the number of SVoD subscriptions showing such impressive growth, UK SVoD households (households taking at least one service) stood at 17.5 million at the end of 2020, whilst taking multiple subscriptions has also increased. Netflix and Amazon Prime Video remain the core drivers of new SVoD households, with the vast majority of those taking another service or already subscribing to one of these two key services.


Personal Video Viewing Time Breakout

Base: 2000 Respondents, Total Base, UK

Total Broadcast Source:

Total OTT:

Over 45’s driving SVoD growth in 2020

Q: Now thinking about your own personal typical viewing behaviour, we’d like you to imagine 100 hours of viewing and to divide it up amongst each of these options to represent your typical viewing


Personal Video Viewing Time Breakout

Base: 2000 Respondents, Total Base, UK


Top 6 Premium Streaming Video & TV Services:

Users as a % of all respondents –BVoD services used in last month

Over two-third of over 55’s have used at least one BVoD
service in the last month

Source: Futuresource DTG State of the Nation Consumer Survey, February 2021, 2025 respondents.

DTG & Futuresource’s State of the Nation consumer survey conducted in February 2021 suggested that uptake of premium streaming services in the form of SVoD and BVoD have reached close to universal levels. Three-quarters of respondents use a BVoD service, whilst almost 4 in 5 use an SVoD service. BVoD uptake, in particular, is well adopted across all age groups.

Netflix, BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime Video are used amongst over half of respondents each, with the vast majority of service users consuming content across multiple services. The combination of usage of the leading services provides a diverse and compelling offering, with almost 70% of BVoD users also using Netflix.

With the growth in specialist OTT services also evident, and as most consumers prefer to watch these services on their main TV, viewers increasingly look for seamless experiences to help them navigate this fragmentation.


TV Sets

Record annual 4K UHD TV sales in 2020 of 4.2m, 24% growth. Total TV sales grew 19% YoY, the highest in 25 years. HH penetration exceeds 50% for the first time

AV Hardware

>1m soundbars sold in 2020

Strongest annual growth in
5 years

SVoD Subscriptions

40m SVoD subscriptions at end 2020, record annual additions of 12.5m

60% of all UK HH have at least one SVoD subscription

Transactional Video

42% of consumers have bought or rented a digital movie or TV show in prior 12 months
Over half of 4K TV owners did

Not only has spending on premium streaming entertainment increased in 2020, but so too has investment in in-home viewing hardware. Driven by being at home more and a shift in spending priorities, a number of consumer electronics categories witnessed significant boosts in 2020.

This desire for an improved viewing experience has seen sales of 4K UHD TVs and soundbars in particular benefit, further fuelling the demand for premium entertainment experiences and features into 2021 and beyond.

22% of UK consumers said they bought their last main TV approximately one year ago or less, with 28% saying they are considering purchasing a TV in the next year. Over half of TV owners bought their current main TV in the last three years. Only 14% claim to have had their current main TV for eight years or longer

4K UHD TV Market
Development: UK

SVoD Subscriptions
Development: UK


The most commonly quoted feature/trick respondents would like to see introduced to improve the TV viewing experience related to a better/simpler UI.
(Asked as open text)

of UK consumers agree they would watch more TV shows and movies if they could access them through a one search feature, rather than switching between different channels, services or apps.

With the pandemic driving OTT video viewing to the mass market and UK consumers increasingly using a range of different services, we anticipate an increased focus on industry investment in improving consumer viewing experiences. Particularly as the fragmentation of viewing continues, with innovation key to helping grow consumer engagement.

However, as service and content choice drive fragmentation, consumer preferences are also fragmenting. This is highlighted by what consumers wish to see when they first turn on their TV.

One-third of consumers would like to see immediately an option that includes streaming service or apps, whereas 40% are happy to just see a favourite or previous TV channel playing.

Therefore, television innovation that bridges broadcast and streaming is key to improving viewing experiences moving forwards. Seamless solutions would increase viewing engagement, with over half of consumers also stating they would watch more content if they had universal search and didn’t have to switch between different channel services and apps.

TV owners typically agree that core considerations when buying their next TV centre around simplicity and seamless experiences, such as easily switching between channels and apps or pre-tuned/pre-installed channels/apps.

Operators might expect to require multicast IP alongside adaptive bit-rate encoding for live video. This is more efficient; however, the move to fibre networks changes the equation. Although there are clearly higher bandwidth requirements for unicast video, the technology proved reliable during the COVID-19 pandemic and is continually being refined and improved for IP-based VoD.

TV owners typically agree that core considerations when buying their next TV centre around simplicity and seamless experiences, such as easily switching between channels and apps or pre-tuned/pre-installed channels/apps.

Of the options listed, the ability to easily switch between channels and apps was most important, but channels or broadcaster apps being pre-installed or tuned is also seen as key.

FTA owners were more likely to say that pre-installed BVoD apps are important.

% of TV owners who say the following are important or very important to them when buying their next TV

Ability to easily switch between favourite TV channels and streaming apps

Pre-tuned TV channels or one obvious button to tune channels

TV is pre-installed with BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All4 and My 5 apps

Connect TV to the Internet without entering Wi-Fi codes or passwords

TV is pre-installed with the most popular SVoD apps e.g Netflix

Single sign in across all my streaming services

Desired Features of Next TV

Base: 1812 TV Owners

Smart features are the most desired feature for a future TV purchase, whilst one-third of TV owners specify they would look for energy efficiency in their next set. This is more of a consideration in over 70’s.

Over 70% of TV owners like to change their TV settings when they first buy it, with the vast majority reporting no problems in setting it up


Key TV Viewing Annoyances: % of all respondents who claim to be “annoyed a lot” when the following situation occurs

Base: All Respondents – excludes those who just claim some annoyance

Top ways in which TV Viewing Experience Could be Improved.
Base: All respondents. Grouped themes based on open-text

Rank Improvement Area
1 Audio experiences
2 User interfaces/ search & navigation
3 Quality & quantity of programming
4 Picture quality/screen features
5 Fewer adverts
6 Internet/buffering

The consumer survey asked both closed and open-ended questions to respondents regarding potential improvements relating to their TV viewing experience. The most common top complaints related to audio.

Over one-third of respondents are particularly aggrieved by inconsistent audio levels.

In the open text, a number of respondents complained of poor sound in movies, inconsistent audio levels and mumbling. In fact over one-third of respondents claimed to be annoyed by inconsistent audio levels.

“Happy with my Freeview but I do wish the sound was better – on some films sound is so bad even turned up I can’t hear it”

Source: Futuresource DTG State of the Nation Consumer Survey, February 2021, 2025 respondents


% of all respondents who:

Audio is a key grievance amongst UK television viewers; 36% of respondents claim to struggle to hear audio or dialogue through their TV sometimes or most of the time. This is more evident amongst 19 to 25-year-olds as well as over 60’s, whilst over three-quarters of those with a hearing impairment also complain of this. 58% of those who struggle to hear audio or dialogue through their TV use subtitles.

  • 43% of UK consumers adjust sounds settings on their TV (other than volume).

40% of respondents use subtitles either most of the time or sometimes. Usage is not driven by older or tech-averse respondents, but under 25-year-olds and the tech-savvy, suggesting motives other than accessibility.

55% of 16-35’s at least sometimes use subtitles on TV, twice as high as in >55’s

15% use subtitles on TV most of the time, 28% amongst 16-25’s

Source: Futuresource DTG State of the Nation Consumer Survey, February 2021, 2025 respondents.


The diversity of attitudes in UK TV and video viewing is evident through the varying attitudes towards watching and paying for content. For example, despite the growth in SVoD and other paid-for streaming services, most Free-to-Air viewers feel that free television services satisfy their television viewing needs (71% of Free-to-Air households agree with the statement that there is more than enough content to watch across FTA channels and free catch-up TV services).

In addition, 69% of respondents would prefer fewer, better quality TV shows than more, lower quality TV shows, although amongst 19–35-year-olds this preference is much more evenly split.

There are also diverse attitudes towards the resolution of TV content. Almost half of the respondents say that watching TV in the highest quality ‘doesn’t matter to them.

  • Over 1 in 5 would stop watching if the resolution wasn’t to their satisfaction.


of FTA HH agree that there is more than enough content to watch across FTA channels & BVoD services.

Respondents claim to switch TV shows during watching 20% of the time on average, mainly because they don’t like what they are watching, or boredom.


of respondents state that watching TV in the highest resolution doesn’t matter, particularly true amongst over 65’s but only 30% in 16-25’s.


would stop watching if the resolution wasn’t satisfactory

Source: Futuresource DTG State of the Nation Consumer Survey, February 2021, 2025 respondents.


Despite a turbulent year, addressable TV advertising remains one of the key areas of investment in UK television. It has once again been identified as a key area of innovation in the UK industry. The UK’s addressable TV landscape was already well established, but the acceleration of OTT viewing in 2020 has further driven increased industry activity and consumer engagement in the sector, particularly since the mid-point of 2020.

Following the initial softness in the TV advertising markets in Q2 2020, advertisers and broadcasters have looked for improved advertising efficiencies, with the growing reach of IP-based viewing helping provide this.

Broadcasters, in particular, have been driving this increased engagement, with ITV launching its Planet V platform in October 2020.

Once again, approximately 7 in 10 industry executives in Futuresource & DTG’s short survey said that addressable TV had good or strong potential for innovation in the UK.

However, despite advancements in the sector, many UK consumers either have concerns about, or need to be convinced of the benefits of addressable TV.

Whilst half of UK respondents don’t mind targeted advertising, 36% said they didn’t like it at all as they don’t want broadcasters or advertisers knowing too much about them. These concerns are particularly evident amongst older consumers, where 62% had these concerns compared with just 16% in 16-25-year-olds.

With leading initiatives such as Sky AdSmart and now ITV’s Planet V, and initiatives from TV manufacturers, the UK is heading towards the milestone of half of UK ads served through linear broadcast or IP-delivered platforms being addressable.

HbbTV provides a collaborative opportunity to help break through this milestone and beyond, by increasing the reach of dynamic ad-insertion on linear television. However, its implementation in the UK is still very much in its early days.

Half of UK consumers don’t mind targeted advertising, but most have concerns about privacy.

35% of UK consumers agree that they would be comfortable sharing data with a channel or service if it meant fewer ads, although half of UK consumers would prefer fewer, but more relevant ads.

39% would consider paying more to watch a TV show with no ads; over half in under 45’s.

Respondents appear not to be able to differentiate between the relevance of adverts shown to them on traditional live TV versus on BVoD services.

Source: Futuresource DTG State of the Nation Consumer Survey, February 2021, 2025 respondents.


The new wave of AVoD services witnessed in the US, which has been driven by the likes of Pluto TV, Xumo, Tubi, and The Roku Channel, has given rise to a new sector that has found a significant role alongside both traditional viewing platforms and paid services such as Netflix. Whilst progress is slower in the UK; US success has proven that a full advertising-funded, IP-based channel proposition can achieve scale with the right market conditions.

A combination of on-demand and linear ”’FAST’ channels (Free Ad-Supported Television) underpins large offerings – PlutoTV has over 250 channels.

US uptake has been impressive; at the end of 2020, ‘ ‘Futuresource’s “Living With Digital” survey suggests that over 40% of US respondents had used an AVoD service in the last month.

Internationally, this sector has been slower to develop. A smaller scale, localised broadcast and advertising landscape, against a backdrop of established broadcaster VoD offerings (whereby commercial broadcaster BVoD services are also driven by advertising) means that this new wave of AVoD has challenges in establishing itself both in the UK and across Europe.

Fragmentation is at the core of this, making it more difficult to achieve the necessary scale to drive concepts.

However, a combination of a steady shift to IP distribution, improved targeted advertising technology, TV manufacturer partnerships and the opportunity for content holders to monetise dormant or under-exploited content inventory further means, that such offerings are expected to steadily become part of the wider viewing mix across the longer term.

In addition, TV and device manufacturers are increasingly seeking to diversify their revenue streams from beyond just hardware to services and advertising. Roku and Vizio are doing this successfully in the US, whilst TV manufacturers such as Samsung have increased investment in their advertising divisions.

Smart TV has become a key battleground for the new wave of AVoD. AVoD services are not only positioning themselves as standalone streaming services, but the familiar look of their live channel EPGs also places them alongside traditional broadcast EPGs on smart TVs. Major TV manufacturers are partnering with FAST channel services to integrate the offerings into the heart of their user interfaces.

These initiatives will be key in helping drive AVoD in the UK and in turn, driving IP-based viewing, potentially paving the way for full IP-based EPGs with comprehensive channel offerings in the longer term.

Such services drive increased consumer choice, but it could provide an alternative to the traditional aggregated broadcast channels platforms and EPGs, particularly as their reach, advertising effectiveness, and localised offering improves.

With many channels highly curated or specialised, they also provide an alternative platform for niche specialist channels on traditional broadcast platforms.

The emergence of these AVoD platforms highlights the growing shift to IP across both linear and on-demand content, but could also be enhanced through integrated IP/broadcast solutions such as DVB-I, potentially providing a more comprehensive, seamless and simpler consumer experience.

12% of UK consumers have used PlutoTV, Xumo or The Roku Channel in the last month.

61% of these users would consider paying more to watch without ads.


Leading “New Wave” AVoD Service
MAUs Millions: Worldwide

Note: Roku Channel & Peacock MAUs include paid-for subscriptions


The pandemic and subsequent stay-at-home orders have not only driven overall television and video viewing to new levels, but have firmly re-established the television set at the heart of TV and video viewing. Not only for traditional linear broadcasts, but for IP-delivered video. For key OTT services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and BBC iPlayer, the TV has been easily the preferred way to watch TV shows and movies for a number of years.

86% of live TV viewers say that the TV is the screen they use most often to watch this content, with the equivalent for streaming on-demand movies and TV shows at 71%. However, whilst the TV remains the most often used screen for 16-25’s, other devices are also popular. Yet the opposite is true amongst over 55s with the TV overwhelmingly the screen used most often.

TV set ownership is an influencing factor in younger demographic screen use, as 24% of 16-30-year-olds who don’t live with their parents claim they do not have a TV in their household.

Despite the dominance of viewing on a TV set, ways for watching live TV is highly fragmented. 40% of those who watch live TV discover programmes via their TV EPG, the next most popular is watching live TV through a streaming app on a smart TV

% of Respective Viewing Bases Whereby TV* is Screen Used to Watch Most Often

*Includes directly on TV or via devices connected to a TV
24% of 16-30’s who do not live with their parents, claim not to have a TV in their household.
But only 3% of over 55’s don’t have a TV.
TV owners have on average 2.4 sets in their household.
Source: Futuresource DTG State of the Nation Consumer Survey, February 2021, 2025 respondents.


Total IP-connectable TV Access Devices in Use:
UK(M Units)

Source: Futuresource Consulting industry research

Total TV Access Devices in Use:
UK (M Units)

Source: Futuresource Consulting industry research



By the end of 2020, UK consumers owned 215m devices that could be used to access TV services – equating to over three devices per person. Of these, 192m (89%) can be connected for IP services. Whilst some are core to the TV device landscape, such as TV Sets, Set-Top Boxes and Media Streamers, the industry ensures compatibility and quality of service across a range of others, such as smartphones and tablets.

2020 saw a potentially brief reversal of the downward trend for the total number of TV sets in use.

The pandemic drove some households to buy additional sets in order to avoid contention amongst family members for big-screen time.

The longer-term trend has been downwards as a result of the broader range of options now available for TV viewing, meaning that consumers no

longer need a dedicated TV set for their more casual viewing.

Set-Top Box use is falling as Pay-TV subscriptions have peaked, and retail FTA boxes have become increasingly redundant in the wake of the adoption of digital TV sets with integrated tuners. Meanwhile, the growth areas in ownership all centre around connected devices.

The deployment of IP-connected boxes by Pay-TV operators has been largely responsible for 32% ownership growth since 2015. Connected boxes were rolled out in order to enable access to both Pay-TV provider’s own VoD services and additional channels, as well as to bring third-party VoD services such as Netflix and BBC iPlayer into their service offering.

The number of smart TVs in use has more than doubled since 2015 to exceed 27m sets. Futuresource consumer research shows that these are now the most popular means by which Netflix users access the service, overtaking media streamers and laptops. This indicates not just increasing ownership but also use of the IP interface, which has improved in this timeframe, driving a significantly better consumer experience.

TV makers are placing a great deal of emphasis on improving the user interface – especially for the discovery of OTT content – including voice search.

Media streamer uptake has been the fastest growth area in the past five years, with the installed base more than trebling to 15.2m by the end of 2020. Consumers are responding enthusiastically to the growth in on-demand services, and media streamers have fulfilled the role of a cheap and simple means of access.

The desire toGames consoles provide additional access points to OTT services, and these sold well during the lockdown, and ownership will pick up further with the uptake of next-gen consoles.

Whilst smartphone ownership is now approaching saturation, with 90% of the UK entire population owning at least one, the increase in screen size in recent years has led to a fall in demand for tablets, with phones now more attractive for TV viewing.

Laptop and desktop computers provide the largest mainstream alternative screen on which to view TV, with an estimated 42.5m in use by the end of 2020.

Lockdown triggered increased purchases by consumers to ensure that there were enough devices in the household to cope with additional demands of children being educated at home [Note that this total excludes devices supplied by businesses and education].


The long-term shift to larger screens continued in 2020, although demand for smaller screens (especially 32“) held up better than it anticipated as a result of the lockdown in the first half of the year.

The desire to ensure that all the entertainment needs of various household members were served led to an uptick in purchasing smaller sets for additional rooms in the first lockdown.

The overall trend towards larger screens did persist, however, with nearly half of all sets sold in 2020 being 45″ +.

In the context of a TV market that grew by 17% as people doubled-down on home entertainment, 45″ + sales grew by 23%.

Factors driving the large-screen market include price falls, the improved aesthetics of the sets themselves (including thinner sets and diminishing bezel size) and the roll-out of 4K UHD, which can be better enjoyed on larger screens.

Share of TVs Sold by Screen Size

Source: Futuresource Consulting industry research


There are three main issues stemming from the influence of big tech platforms which impact Public Service Broadcasters’ ability to serve audiences in the UK:

Access to data – On digital platforms access to data is essential for all services competing for audiences there. This is considered essential in order to develop digital content and to supply personalised services to users. The lack of quality data provision from big tech platforms to the broadcasters and other service providers who use these platforms inhibits their ability to develop valued content and useful services for UK audiences.

Attribution – The aggregation of content by digital platforms, including by news aggregators, has led to lower brand attribution being provided to original UK content providers including, but not limited to, the Public Service Broadcasters. This damages the relationship with audiences and undermines support for the broadcast ecosystem as people now question the value they are getting from their licence fee.

Self-preferencing – Big tech platforms offering preferential treatment to their own downstream services creates significant anti-competitive effects, which negatively affect the broadcaster’s ability to serve UK audiences.

The ongoing change in distribution technologies is accompanied by a move by global companies to seek interests across the whole distribution value chain. This could happen at the detriment of smaller national players who cannot compete at similar scale. Moreover, global tech companies are increasingly using insights gained in one technological market to gain advantage in another, whether directly adjacent or otherwise.




Televisions alone consumed an estimated 5.4 TWh of electricity in the UK during 2020; this is expected to increase to 5.9 TWh in 2025 due, in part, to the increased popularity of UHD TV sets.

The average carbon intensity of TV viewing in the UK will rise by 3% to 29gCO2e per hour by 2025, due to steady migration to UHD. This is offset partially by newer display technologies and a shift towards advanced video codecs, which deliver greater efficiencies.*

Although the energy usage of TVs in the field remains fixed, their carbon emissions actually decrease steadily over time. This happens because the UK government is forcing a switch to more sustainable electricity generation and replacing our reliance on fossil fuels by migrating to renewable energy sources.

Watching TV using an STB increases emissions by 13%, generating up to 40gCO2e per hour of viewing.

Integration of STB functions into smart TVs will help mitigate this impact; network recording and streaming could entirely replace DVR’s.

In the US, April 2021, the CTA and NCTA extended STB energy-saving initiatives to 2025, with maximum power levels for IP non-DVR Set-Top Boxes cut by an average of 43% from 2021 levels.

The resolution of content affects the environmental impact of video streaming services.

Streaming video in 720p to an HDTV produces 19% fewer emissions than streaming in native 1080p resolution.

Watching online video in 1080p resolution on an HDTV contributes 35gCO2e per hour; the TV itself accounts for 61% of this total, with the remaining 39% being emissions generated by the data centre and broadband distribution.

Watching a 4K streaming service on a 4K TV contributes 71gCO2e per hour, over twice the equivalent on HD.

The industry may contemplate delivering video services in a format appropriate for the type of content and the viewing device.

For example, consumers value films and movies in 4K HDR, but should we limit news services to HD SDR?.

The industry may contemplate delivering video services in a format appropriate for the type of content and the viewing device.

Consumers value films and movies in 4K HDR; but should we limit news services to HD SDR?

*Futuresource examined the average power consumption of HD, 4K and 8K TV sets over time, and made projections towards lower power consumption based upon historical energy performance, noting that TVs are becoming more efficient. The average daily use from the consumer research was extracted to calculate typical energy consumption, both in use and in standby.  These results are multiplied by UK TV installed base forecasts to calculate an estimate of overall TV energy consumption and CO2 emissions annually across the UK.


For many large firms, environmental sustainability has become a key pillar in their corporate social responsibility. The potential to become more energy-efficient and reduce overheads are enticing propositions. However, the issue at hand is far greater than improving public perception or saving money. Consumers and businesses alike are realising the need to embrace sustainability and change practices to help protect the environment. Steady progress is being made, predominantly through better recycling, improved manufacturing processes, thoughtful component and material selection, and of course, reduced consumption.

This isn’t restricted to hardware alone; the move towards carbon-neutral practices is likely to drive more sustainable service propositions.  There are benefits in reducing network traffic from connected products, rebalancing the energy usage between cloud and device through onboard AI and edge processing, even switching to more efficient streaming and lightweight communications protocols.

In 2019, an estimated 2.5 terawatt-hours of electricity was used to run data centres and content delivery network (CDN) infrastructure to support video streaming services globally.  The industry is taking strides towards using renewable energy sources to mitigate the environmental impact; indeed, the European Commission states that initiatives will be put in place to achieve climate-neutral, energy-efficient, and sustainable data centres by no later than 2030.

By way of an example, Hulu delivers its catalogue of over 75,000 video-on-demand programmes and a live TV service that ingests 1,000 streams daily, delivering to over 32 million subscribers worldwide.  By relocating their storage facility to a data centre running on 100% renewable energy, it eliminates a claimed 265,000 tCO2e of emissions annually.

In DTG’s industry survey, almost 9 in 10 executives surveyed stated that sustainability is important or extremely important in broadcast and distribution.

Overall, only 34% of UK consumers* understand that their choice of video service has an impact on the environment, although this is over 50% in 16-25’s. Similarly, 37% were aware that streaming in a higher resolution typically uses more energy overall, therefore increasing environmental emissions.

Furthermore, 40% of UK consumers would stream video at a lower quality to reduce emissions, with tech-savvy consumers more likely to consider this.

Carbon Intensity of TV Viewing

for Broadcast Television Services
*DTG & Futuresource’s consumer survey February 2021

TVs consumed an estimated 5.4 TWh of electricity in the UK during 2020.

34% of UK consumers understand that their choice of video service has an impact on the environment


Sustainability isn’t entirely focused on renewable energy. There is scope to offer “greener” video streaming services by educating consumers on the environmental impact of their video viewing habits: higher resolutions require more data, and this indirectly impacts CO2 emissions.

In the DTG & Futuresource’s consumer survey, 45% of video streamers said they would be willing to pay a little extra for “green streaming” alternatives that reduce energy and emissions. This increases to 49% amongst SVoD subscribers; 76% of these said they feel that £1 a month or more is appropriate.

Based on a forecast of 46 million UK subscriptions by the end of 2021, if such an initiative had been deployed, this would generate over £400 million in additional revenue in 2021.

This is revenue that could help offset the costs of moving towards more sustainable data centres, or investing in research to create more efficient codecs.

These findings suggest that there is broad scope for the industry to extract additional value from sustainability. So, it’s feasible that a leading SVoD provider might partner with a prominent TV manufacturer to combine lower-bandwidth streaming with the AI upscaling capabilities of the television, helping reduce the environmental impact of streaming services. The same might be achieved with broadcast television services, although arguably, the returns would be less tangible.

Regardless of whether they would pay extra for a sustainable service, 47% of UK consumers said they agree that they would be happy for streaming video services to offer an “eco“ option. This is particularly evident amongst those who are tech-savvy, whilst there is little difference in attitude by age, up to the age of 65 at least.

Carbon Intensity of Streaming Video

Including Energy Used by TV Sets (2020)
Source: Futuresource DTG State of the Nation Consumer Survey, February 2021, 2,025 respondents.

40% of UK consumers would consider streaming at a lower quality to reduce emissions.

49% of UK SVoD subscribers would pay extra for green streaming alternatives – which could generate over £400 million annually.


Technological advancements in virtual production make it easier to convincingly simulate real-world locations from within the studio, banishing the need for travel altogether. The convergence of motion picture and video game technology has made real-time manipulation of 3D virtual assets a possibility on set. For instance, Jon Favreau’s “The Mandalorian” was able to shoot a diverse range of sci-fi locations from a studio stage by using mixed reality. The production team used camera tracking data to map virtual locations that were visualised with Epic ‘Games’ Unreal Engine onto a panoramic LED screen backdrop, removing the need to use green screens and associated post-production processes.

The production industry is redefining best practice to incorporate sustainability as a fundamental principle of decision-making, helping mitigate its impact on the environment and become more sustainable. Production crews are working collaboratively with manufacturers to achieve this by devising new ways of working that capitalise on the advantages made available to them through innovation across the sector.

The use of real-time graphics coupled with virtual studio sets will substantially reduce the carbon footprint of the video entertainment industry

Image credit: Epic Games/Unreal Engine; Stargate Studios


Within the next decade, AI will be considered a common and universally accepted technology. It will rapidly become pervasive and ubiquitous across society, businesses, the built environment, and is expected to be a key part of the UK economy.

The UK Government recognises the importance of AI and machine learning and has established headline strategies to place the UK at the forefront of the artificial intelligence and data revolution. The government published their AI Roadmap in January 2021.

Four new institutions are at the centre of the UK’s AI strategy:

1) The Alan Turing Institute;

2) The Office for Artificial Intelligence;

3) The Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation;

4) The AI Council.

The AI Council is an independent expert committee. It provides an advisory service to the UK Government, in addition to maintaining high-level leadership of the artificial intelligence ecosystem.

The Alan Turing Institute is the UK’s national centre for artificial intelligence and data science. Based at the British Library, the Turing Institute brings together academics from 13 leading UK universities to study the impact AI will have on society.

The UK is currently home to one-third of all of Europe’s AI companies, nearly twice as many as any other EU country; this is the strong baseline that the government’s AI strategies aim to extend and build upon.

By embracing AI, the government believes we could add £232 billion to the UK economy by 2030, boosting productivity in some industries by nearly one-third. Their recent publications state that AI could generate cost savings of up to 25 %, given that AI-based algorithms can deliver greater efficiency. Additionally, government estimates consider that AI could deliver a substantial 10% increase in UK GDP by 2030.

Beyond, the trajectory for AI leads to an intersect with ambient intelligent experiences; in this world, compute becomes pervasive and embedded into the environment, with seamless boundaries between “edge” and “cloud”. The industry has barely embarked upon what might be achievable; research into machine learning and AI is accelerating to create new applications and extend the benefits. For future iterations, we look towards the intersection between quantum computing and neural computation since the combined proficiencies are destined to deliver astonishing levels of AI performance.


AI and, more specifically, machine learning, is beginning to impact all aspects of the video supply chain, unlocking a range of opportunities for the content creation and broadcast industries. Indeed, up to 30% of companies in this sector have either adopted, or are in the process of incorporating machine learning and AI either within their daily operations or product lines.
The main strategies for the consideration of AI across broadcast and media are cost reduction and consumer monetisation. Data is the key currency across the video supply chain. The more granular the industry can get in extracting data and insights, the more the adopters of AI technology benefit from monetisation. But conversely, the more granular they become, the harder it is to derive valuable insights from narrower data sets. This is where AI plays to its strengths, in that it can extract patterns from “big data” where traditional algorithms might fail.

IBM’s Watson AI engines are used to automatically
create highlight reels for sports.  IBM is also employing AI to recreate the ambient crowd noise absent from empty stadia during the pandemic
Image credit: IBM

Some broad examples on how AI is helping transform the video industry include:

AI-based cataloguing of video footage enables fast retrieval and discovery, reducing the effort required for search and enabling assets to be reused, potentially avoiding unnecessary video shoots. This indirectly improves environmental sustainability.

AI is employed to extract video footage for sports highlights. For instance, Wimbledon uses IBM Watson to search for clips suitable for online publication based upon crowd and player reactions; and Endemol Shine use AI to surface popular footage in “Big Brother”.

Audio assets can be automatically generated by AI. For example, IBM used machine learning with Watson to simulate crowds in the 2020 US Open Tennis Championships, trained upon sounds gleaned from hundreds of hours of video footage captured during previous events.

The growth in overall video consumption on digital platforms continues to present challenges for quality control and versioning media. For large broadcasters, their coverage of a single event can create more content than can be reviewed by their staff alone. Monitoring by exception is becoming vital to manage both linear and digital assets that are published, and AI is becoming increasingly necessary to identify cases where video integrity or content need to be flagged for review.


Sustainability is of paramount importance to broadcasters, particularly as the industry focuses upon the transition from SDI to IP system architectures. This transition manifests itself at an infrastructure level, as mission-critical workflows are migrated from proprietary SDI hardware to IP networks.

New broadcast facilities will be constructed around an IP-centric architecture wherever feasible; in reality, a base level of SDI is still required, even in the most advanced studios. However, IP will be deployed as a hybrid IP/SDI solution due to the costs of replacing all SDI equipment concurrently in an operational facility.  These projects are typically centred on deploying an IP backbone and use gateways to bridge to SDI equipment on the edge of the network.  Over time, SDI equipment will invariably be replaced with products with IP connectivity as part of a typical refresh cycle.

This is important because the move to IP paves the way towards pure software-based products that run on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) IT equipment. Whilst this is a threat to broadcast equipment vendors that manufacture dedicated hardware, broadcasters themselves will ultimately benefit from the sustainability practices already widely adopted by IT and cloud infrastructure equipment.

This period of investment in new infrastructure provides an opportunity for the inclusion of sustainability objectives.

Greater awareness of the responsibility for companies to operate sustainably, especially by broadcasters across the EU, is contributing to a rising expectation for new build facilities to target sustainability objectives, with the aim of futureproofing investment for years to come. However, industry feedback also agrees that it is easier to get it right when working with a blank slate; improving incumbent facilities filled with older, less efficient hardware is challenging.

The current commercial pressures faced by broadcasters make it difficult for organisations to invest in technology to improve their sustainability proactively. Among public service broadcasters, it is a slightly different story: money can be ringfenced for sustainable initiatives as part of the ‘organisations’ contractual obligations to serve the public interest. The current situation largely gives rise to an environment where cost savings are achieved through implementing greater efficiency. This is creating a demand for technologies that can speed up production timelines, reduce crew needed to produce quality content, improve monetisation of content, or reduce the number of facilities, and overheads, through consolidation. Many of the solutions to these problems improve the sustainability of operations as a by-product.


The first versions of AVC were developed back in the early 2000s. Since then, the codec has been continuously updated and modernised for both television and mobile applications, with the latest incarnations offering support for HDR and 360° immersive video formats. The uninterrupted development coupled with favourable licensing terms and low compute complexity has ensured AVC’s continued success.

HEVC was developed to target UHD video use-cases; it was finalised almost ten years later, in April 2013. Although much more efficient than AVC, the standard continues to be encumbered by a convoluted licensing model. While HEVC Advance merges many of the patent holders for HEVC, aiming to provide simple licensing terms, MPEG LA still represents several others. Velos Media combine yet more IP holders, and a handful are still unaffiliated and not taking part in any of these pools.

The AV1 specification published back in March 2018, with validation in June of that year. The Alliance for Open Media (AOM) were motivated to create a royalty-free alternative to HEVC. However, Sisvel announced a patent pool of 14 companies that hold over 1,000 patents, which the company claims are essential for the implementation of AV1. The licensing situation is now uncertain but, despite this, there is an expectation that AV1 will become prevalent in software/apps and that hardware decoders might become available by 2025

More recently, VVC has been developed by Fraunhofer alongside support from Apple, Ericsson, Intel, Huawei, Microsoft, Qualcomm and Sony. The standard was completed in July 2020 and is presently the most likely codec for transmission of 8K HDR content. Reference implementations for VVC are expected by October this year. Meantime, Version 2 of the standard is underway, expected in Q3 2022.

Meanwhile, EVC is an MPEG standard backed by Samsung, Huawei, Qualcomm and Divideon. For the Baseline profile, only tools that are guaranteed to be royalty-free are being integrated; and for the Main profile, a “royalty-known” approach is being applied, where any IP contributor must present a fairly-priced licensing model within two years of the formal draft of the standard, meaning by April 2022.

Of the options listed, the ability to easily switch between channels and apps was most important, but channels or broadcaster apps being pre-installed or tuned is also seen as key.


The UK enjoys a highly-advanced telecommunication sector characterised by strong commercial competition. The country has high penetration rates for fixed and mobile services, due in part to favourable pricing strategies. Penetration in fixed broadband is also above the European average. The UK continues to be a champion of privatisation in the telecommunication sector, and its leadership here significantly influenced the direction of EU policies on telecommunications.

The UK Government achieved its aim of providing 95% broadband coverage to at least 24 Mbps by the end of 2017. It has now established a target to achieve nationwide gigabit connectivity as soon as practicable, with an ambition to achieve this by 2025

There is a major change in broadband infrastructure on the immediate horizon as Openreach transitions to fully digital networks. Undeniably, the BT Openreach Analogue Switch-off programme represents a complete digital transformation of the UK telecommunications network infrastructure and positions the extension of fibre networks as absolutely vital to this process.

The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) is being gradually phased out. The programme will convert all telephone lines to Internet Protocol (IP) technology, transitioning legacy telephone services to Voice over IP (VoIP). By September 2023, all analogue and ISDN telephone lines will cease being sold. A UK-wide replacement of PSTN will be completed by December 2025.

The PSTN withdrawal means that both residential and business customers must upgrade from using analogue landlines to a VoIP phone system in order to make telephone calls. Over 16 million lines require migration before the PSTN is withdrawn, most of which are sold by over 400 individual communication providers. This effectively forces all customers to move to broadband.

Customers that cannot be served by broadband – either because they’re too far from the exchange, or too expensive to connect – are likely to receive fixed wireless [mobile] access over 4G/5G.

Customers will need to upgrade from ADSL or FTTC broadband to a new broadband product called SOGEA (Single Order Generic Ethernet Access). This requires a physical line; SOGEA is based upon the same infrastructure as FTTC, therefore the connectivity and broadband speeds will be broadly similar. Telcos and, eventually, broadcasters are likely to utilise this transition to their advantage by offering television services alongside broadband. Likewise, PSBs may leverage the extended broadband access for hybrid television coverage, employing standards such as DVB-I to deliver TV programming.


Three major features of 5G make it practical for adoption in television production: the gigabit performance, the low end-to-end latency, and most importantly, network slicing – new to 5G – that reserves guaranteed bandwidth for specific applications.

In-stadia trials today use 5G transmitters carried in the backpack of the cameraman; these are connected to dedicated, localised receiver antenna arrays erected around the stadium. The video stream is routed onto fibre networks and across the internet for relay to production studios.

As 5G networks are rolled out more widely, network slicing will be employed on local cell towers providing a protected portion of bandwidth specifically for TV production. It will carry the traffic that would ordinarily have been backhauled over satellite links connected via outside broadcast (OB) trucks. Once commercial 5G networks are fully operational, much of the complicated and expensive backhaul infrastructure can be dispensed with.

For broadcast television services, FeMBMS (Further evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service) enhances the operating modes for 5G, adding broadcast capabilities as a fundamental part of the standard. FeMBMS also includes new codecs and media formats that closely align with broadcast TV industry requirements, operating alongside 5G mobile cell infrastructure. This allows high power high tower (HPHT) broadcast deployments capable of distributing television services over wide areas, similar in coverage to digital terrestrial services on the air today.

Television broadcasts over 5G are feasible using the 700 MHz frequency band previously occupied by terrestrial television services, and trials are ongoing in Europe to evaluate the efficacy of such a solution. In the UK, this spectrum has recently been awarded to mobile operators to offer wider coverage for 5G services.

Meanwhile, mobile operators will capitalise on 5G’s ability to offer higher bandwidths for unicast streaming services. Beyond, we expect they will examine the potential for more immersive media formats that harness the lower network latencies associated with 5G, such as live volumetric video and applications across AR and VR.


5G occupies three primary frequency bands. The Low-Band frequencies – including those previously allocated to UK DTT – are especially useful for 5G mobile services due to their wide area coverage. High-band offers superior data rates but is highly localised.


The build-out of 5G networks across the UK is progressing broadly to plan, with all four leading operators now having commercial mobile services across major cities and beginning to expand into wider conurbations.

Ofcom completed clearance of the 700 MHz spectrum in August 2020, which was previously occupied by digital terrestrial television services. This was achieved to allow reallocation of the Low-band frequencies considered necessary to enable wider 5G coverage.

The COVID-19 pandemic delayed the sale of the spectrum originally scheduled for 2020. In March 2021, spectrum within the 700 MHz and 3.6 – 3.8 GHz frequency bands were awarded by auction. Ofcom released 200 MHz of spectrum in total:

80 MHz of spectrum in the 700 MHz band.

120 MHz of spectrum in the 3.6 GHz – 3.8 GHz band, part of which is presently used for fixed links and satellite services.

The auction raised £1.36bn for the UK government and increased the total amount of spectrum available for 5G mobile in the UK by nearly a fifth (18%). A 37% (416 MHz) cap was imposed to reflect the overall spectrum that any one mobile company can hold following the auction to encourage fair competition between the network operators. O2 and EE secured spectrum in both the 700 MHz and 3.6 – 3.8 GHz bands; Three UK acquired spectrum in 700 MHz; and Vodafone in the 3.6 – 3.8 GHz band. Vodafone’s Low-band strategy is to eventually repurpose their existing 900 MHz spectrum for 5G services.

Ofcom originally intended to impose a coverage obligation on the 700 MHz band, requiring winning operators to extend outdoor data coverage (both 4G and 5G services) to at least 90% of the UK’s entire land area within four years of the award. But this obligation has been dropped in favour of the Shared Rural Network (SRN) plan. This is enacted by “Digital Mobile Spectrum”, a jointly-owned company between operators that encourages the sharing of existing mobile towers, and cooperation on new towers erected as part of the 5G roll out. The SRN should result in each individual operator achieving 92% geographic coverage by 2025, with licence obligations taking effect in 2026. The combined effect of this will deliver mobile services to 95% of the UK.

For the high bandwidth 5G services targeting urban areas, local licences for mmWave frequencies, specifically the 26 GHz spectrum – are available for trials, initially for indoor usage only.

UK operators are presently focused on extending 5G coverage geographically using mid-band spectrum, so mmWave will be a secondary consideration. The award of 26 GHz spectrum to the UK operators is unlikely to happen until at least 2022.




As part of this 2021 DTG State of the Nation report, a nationally representative online consumer survey was undertaken in the UK amongst 2,025 respondents, conducted by Futuresource Consulting.

The survey focused on television viewing and device trends, evaluating the landscape, viewing behaviour and consumer attitudes towards various elements of TV and video viewing.

Key information has been extracted for this report which does not cover all questions in the survey. The detailed responses for each question are available in the associated Excel® files


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