BBC at risk of losing generation of potential licence-fee payers

Sixteen- to 34-year-olds spend average of one hour and 12 minutes with BBC every day.

BBC: Khan stars in ads launched this week
BBC: Khan stars in ads launched this week

The BBC is at risk of losing a generation of potential licence-fee payers if it fails to regain the younger viewers who are "increasingly tuning out of its services", Ofcom has warned.

The watchdog’s analysis of the BBC’s performance between April 2018 and May 2019 has found that the broadcaster is, like its competitors, "vulnerable to a rapidly changing media landscape".

Although the BBC is working to address this by launching audio app BBC Sounds and making programmes available for longer on iPlayer, Ofcom said that the broadcaster "must do much more to connect with today’s children and younger adults – through relevant, appealing and well-placed content".

The analysis found that, for the first time, only 49% 16- to 34-year-olds tuned into BBC channels in an average week last year. On average, this demographic spent one hour and 12 minutes with the BBC every day, down five minutes year on year and half as much as the overall audience.

IPlayer viewing among 15- to 24-year-olds also fell from 28% to 26%. However, the same age group watching Netflix rose from 55% to 66%. This week, the BBC launched ads to better engage young people on the platform, starring its own talent including Man Like Mobeen's Guz Khan. 

Although BBC News "remains the UK’s primary news source" and is trusted for its accuracy, younger audiences are turning away from it and are increasingly using social media and news aggregator services such as Apple News or Upday.

Ofcom found that 23% of 16- to 24-year-olds watched BBC News on TV in 2018, dropping by more than a third in five years.

Sharon White, chief executive of Ofcom, said: "The BBC is still a vital, valued part of British culture. But we’re concerned that a new generation is tuning out of its services. So the BBC must set out bolder plans to connect with younger viewers and listeners.

"We also want the BBC to broaden the appeal of its news, which some viewers and listeners feel isn’t relevant to their lives. And the BBC must find ways to be more distinctive online, where our research shows younger people are passing it by."

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