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Looking back at the rise of streaming

Over the past decade, digital technologies have brought huge changes in how we consume culture, from being able to re-watch our favourite films on demand, discover new music artists from our homes, and watch a new TV series over a weekend. It is likely that the next ten years will be no different. This research, by PEC researchers at Nesta and the University of Glasgow, looks back at one of the major innovations in culture consumption of the past decade – streaming. Looking at survey data from 2013-18, we characterise the changing online culture consumption behaviours of UK adults aged 12 and above, with a focus on streaming. 

The surveys, commissioned by the UK Intellectual Property Office and consolidated by the UK Copyright and Creative Economy Centre, contain rich information about what online platforms people use (and know about) to consume culture. This had not been fully explored before, and the data allows us to produce interactive charts like the following to uncover new insights about digital consumption, explained more in the report.

Importantly, this research shows that people’s likelihood to consume TV, film and music online varies significantly with age. The amount of money that people spend on digital culture also varies by age. Even after accounting for Internet access, age and social class predict whether people participate in streaming at all. The data therefore does not support the idea that everyone will become a digital streamer, which is something to remember when we talk about the greater overall levels of online culture consumption.

As one of the key shapers in how we have consumed culture in the past ten years, streaming is likely to continue to become more important to the creative industries in the next decade. The surveys that this research analyses allow us to shed light on some trends in streaming across different types of cultural content, point out disparities in terms of uptake by socio-demographic groups, and suggest some policy recommendations.

In partnership with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO), the PEC are working on related research which looks at the specific impacts of COVID-19 on people’s consumption habits of activities like TV, film, music and video games. The study also looks at how these activities relate to people’s wellbeing during the pandemic. 

Please reference this paper as:

Leung, R., Kretschmer, M. and Meletti, B. (2020) Streaming Culture. Various: Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre, University of Glasgow and Nesta. Available from:

Published 30th April 2020

Photo by Reinhart Julian

This research report is published by the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC). All PEC research reports have been peer reviewed prior to publication. In keeping with normal academic practice, responsibility for the views expressed in this research, and the interpretation of any evidence presented, lies with the authors. These views and interpretations do not necessarily represent those of the PEC or its partner organisations. 

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