TheSoul Publishing reveals the videos the UK watched this year

As much of the UK gets to grips with further lockdown restrictions, TheSoul Publishing reveals how COVID-19 continues to change viewer habits.

TheSoul Publishing surveyed more than 2,000 men and women aged 16–55+, across the United Kingdom, to understand how the pandemic has altered viewing habits and preferences for digital content in 2020.

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How COVID-19 has changed video consumption in the UK:

o More than half of consumers in the UK (52%) spent between 30 minutes to three hours watching short online video content every day

o 76% of consumers agree that fun and positive online video content will become an even more important and popular source of entertainment in the future

o Why consumers are turning to positive online video:

o 26% to improve their mood

o 27% said they watch for inspiration for ideas and projects

o 17% to escape from the news of the day.

82% of audiences reported spending more or the same amount of time watching short-form videos during the pandemic than before, with many using these quick videos to help them adjust to and cope with disruptions to everyday life. The following categories were the most popular:

o Music videos (26%)

o Comedy (26%)

o Cooking/baking (22%)

o DIY or crafting videos (18%)

Looking ahead to what people will be watching in 2021, comedy videos are predicted to show the fastest growth in terms of popularity. Thirty-five percent of Brits felt comedy content is most likely to increase in popularity, with music videos following at 28%.

It’s not just any short-form video that’s resonating with British people right now. It’s positive content that has taken the spotlight, becoming a popular form of escapism and a welcome source of entertainment. For content creators and brands there’s a lot that can be learned about what is most likely to resonate and break through.

Beyond the nation’s preference for positive short-form content, the study surfaced a variety of trends that illustrate how online videos factor into their everyday:

Digital distraction: Since lockdown restrictions came into effect, statistics show that over half of consumers in the UK (52%) spent between 30 minutes to three hours watching short online video content every day.

Americans are ahead of the trend: When compared to the US, Brits are actually behind on the move towards online positive content. Whilst a fifth of Brits now consider watching positive online videos an important part of their daily routine to maintain a healthy lifestyle, in America that figure is up to more than one in three. Whilst 30% of Brits spent more time watching short-form video content during the pandemic, that number was up to 42% in America.

Finding happiness with new hobbies: As restrictions limit consumers’ dining and entertainment options, 73% of Brits have watched a YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or TikTok video for home project inspiration, crafting ideas, DIY activities, and/or cooking.

Long live the trusty smartphone: Currently, in the UK, double the number of consumers share that they are watching short form videos on their smartphone (49%) compared to watching on their computer (26%). Sixteen percent watch on a tablet and 7% watch on their television. Looking ahead to 2021, 42% of Brits believe that they will primarily be watching short online video content on their phones next year. Twenty-two percent believe they will primarily use their computer, 17% say a tablet, and 8% plan to watch mostly on a television. Less likely are smartwatches (3%), glasses (1%) or VR headset (1%).

Online video “shareability” has little to do with length: A mere 10% of Brits said that an online video being short is the most important indicator of its shareability. Topping the list at 32%, the largest number of British consumers believe that a video being interesting makes it most shareable. This is followed by the content being funny (27%), relatable (14%) or helpful (9%). Notably, Germans were the most likely to prioritise content being helpful, at 24%, vs 9% for the UK and 12% in the US. Brits were the most likely to pick funny when it comes to what makes content shareable, at 27%, vs. 21% in the US and 20% in Germany.

Why are we watching? Currently, over a quarter (26%) of Brits stated that they watch positive online video content to improve their mood, 27% said they watch for inspiration for ideas and projects and 17% said they watch to escape from the news of the day. Most expect this trend to continue, with 76% of consumers agreeing that fun and positive online video content will become an even more important and popular source of entertainment in the future.

Short-form is the next big thing: As UK consumers have grown accustomed to trusting short-form content to improve their moods and maintain a healthy lifestyle, this data shows that 80% of consumers will continue to watch at least as much or increase their consumption of short-form content in 2021.

What was the most popular video content in my region?

Nearly a third of us (30%) are now watching more than we were six months ago, with no sign of this abating. But how does where you live influence what you watch? With much of the UK in different tier systems, TheSoul Publishing’s survey reveals how regions have found different ways to stay entertained during lockdown.

Comedy vs music

Across the UK, Geordies are the most likely to enjoy a good laugh, with 55% watching comedy videos — the highest of any city. In comparison, Southampton and Liverpool were the least likely to favour comedy, with only 40% in both areas saying this is the sort of content they typically watch. London has a pretty even split, with 48% of respondents claiming they love music, and 46% loving comedy. While music videos remain the most popular genre on a nationwide level, the North East, Yorkshire, Scotland and Northern Ireland were all regions that placed comedy videos at number one. Famously the home of The Beatles, perhaps unsurprisingly 53% of Liverpudlians chose music videos as the genre they prefer to watch.

Foodie friends

Leeds is the place to be if you’re feeling peckish, with 41% of residents there being avid consumers of cooking and baking videos. In Liverpool by comparison, half that number said that cooking videos are the sort of content they typically watch (23%).

Getting crafty

Data shows that Nottingham and Belfast are tied for the city where DIY and crafting videos are the most popular, with 37% of respondents in both cities claiming they love a crafty watch. Glaswegians on the other hand, were the least interested in crafts, with only 18% claiming they watch these videos.

Positivity is key

It is clear that videos which make people feel happy or productive, from comedy to beauty, are popular in the UK. Interestingly, those living in Newcastle topped the list of cities which said watching positive online videos was an important part of their daily routine to maintain a healthy mind / body lifestyle, at just over a quarter (27%). Londoners primarily watch positive content to improve their mood (26%) which in these uncertain times, we could all use.

Brightonians present an interesting juxtaposition. While only 5% felt that watching positive videos was an important part of a healthy daily routine, 33% said that improving their mood was the main reason for watching positive video content online — the city most likely to do so.

Showing their crafty side, people from Belfast were the most likely to watch positive content to gather “inspiration for ideas and projects” at 34%.

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How are watching habits changing?

The type of content Brits are watching has changed over the past six months. Those in Leeds were the most likely (34%) to have started watching more music content online, whereas those in Cardiff came out top for increasing the time they spent watching comedy videos (35%). Newcastle saw the biggest rise in people watching gaming videos (19%) and those living in Manchester increased the time they spent watching beauty videos (21%).

Through the ever-changing world of video consumption, it is exciting to see how the content we love watching differs across the UK. New trends are starting to emerge and there are numerous resurgences of old ones.

With more entertainment options to divide our attention, there appears to be a growing interest in watching positive things. The rise of positive content has been a strong trend during 2020 and we see no sign of this abating in the New Year, with short, fun and quirky videos providing a quick happiness fix in our busy lives.

How long do you watch for?

Over the last six months those living in Bristol top the list of cities that have increased the time they spend watching videos, with 36% saying they now spend more time watching short online video content than they used to.

A whopping 34% of Brits admitted they now find themselves unable to concentrate on reading longer articles or watching longer video content (videos over 10 minutes). Those in Manchester and Glasgow were the most likely (39%) to say they struggled to concentrate, with Liverpool being the city most likely to be able to focus (53%).

How will our viewing habits change in 2021?

In 2021, respondents overwhelmingly thought that comedy videos would have the biggest increase in popularity (35%). Glaswegians were the most optimistic about this, with 54% suggesting this would be the case.

Leeds was the most optimistic about music videos, with 33% believing they will be boosted next year. Beauty videos, popular amongst Brits, had mixed reviews in the 2021 outlook. Manchester and Leeds are the most likely to expect to see them increase in popularity, both at 23%, but Brighton and Belfast were more sceptical, with only 5% thinking beauty videos will get more popular.

Gaming enthusiasts in Newcastle are the most likely to think gaming tips video content is likely to thrive next year (20%), but the city is with the nation on comedy, with 35% agreeing that comedy videos will dominate 2021.

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