The great big broadband entertainment revolution

Woman watching TV on laptop
New world: our viewing and listening habits have changed beyond recognition Credit: getty


Broadband has revolutionised the UK’s viewing habits, and long gone are the days when we had to make do with a handful of TV channels, a small selection of radio stations and the local fleapit.

With high-speed broadband rolling out across the country, services such as BT TV now offer channels providing sport, movies, drama, entertainment, children’s TV and much more. Netflix and Spotify vie with the BBC and ITV in offering new ways to entertain viewers across all genres.

TV

More than half of UK households now connect their TVs to the internet, according to Ofcom, with access to high-profile series such as Game Of Thrones driving a move away from the shared live family viewing of the past to “appointment viewing” of on-demand programmes or streamed content as and when we want it.

Public service broadcasters (PSB) such as the BBC are also no longer seen as the dominant source of valued, quality content, with dramas now commissioned for services including Netflix rivalling what appears on PSB.

Films

In 1946, British people clocked up 1.635 billion – yes, billion – cinema visits, but by 2015 this dropped to just 171.9 million, a fall of almost 90 per cent. And while blockbuster franchises such as Star Wars and James Bond still draw large audiences for the shared big-screen cinema experience, many viewers now access the vast array of movies online via streamed services or fast broadband downloads.

BT TV store, Amazon Instant Video and iTunes offer thousands of films on a pay-per-movie basis, augmented by a multitude of film channels including Sky Movies, while companies such as PictureBox offer up to 60 films a month for a fiver.

Music

The early internet took 10 long minutes to download one little song, but today’s broadband allows sites such as Spotify and Apple to offer super-fast access to tens of thousands of tracks – downloaded or streamed. Other options include Last FM, Deezer, Soundcloud and Jay-Z’s Tidal.

The popularity of streaming music on the go via mobile data is also rising due to our ever-smarter mobile devices, 4G data networks and more generous data packages. For younger consumers in particular, these developments have slashed radio use.

Radio and podcasts

While radio is still an important medium, greater access to music via services such as Spotify has cut into audience figures, especially among younger consumers. Internet radio remains a slow-burn phenomenon, despite offering access to a global array of distinctive niche stations.

Podcasts have also seen a recent surge of interest, ranging from cult comedy productions to factual content such as BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time or the US podcast Serial.

Books

Storing hundreds of e-books on one portable device has a lot of appeal for modern consumers – as does their low price. Faster broadband allied with a new generation of more versatile and affordable e-readers and tablets means more people are reading more e-books than ever.

Increasing familiarity with screen technology also plays a part. A 2014 study by the Literacy Trust found 52 per cent of children would rather read on electronic devices, compared with 32 per cent who preferred print. However, it did also report that readers absorbed information better from print than from screens.

Five-star shows

Five online-only TV shows generating a buzz:

Mr Robot (Amazon)

Rami Malek stars as a paranoid hacker in this surprise American breakout hit.

Into the Badlands (AMC)

A martial artist and a young boy journey together through a dangerous feudal land in search of enlightenment.

Fear the Walking Dead (AMC)

Not even your worst fears can save you from the ravages of this post-apocalyptic horror, the companion series to The Walking Dead, in which an LA family wake up to zombie-led civilisation collapse.

Luke Cage (Netflix)

Mike Colter stars as the wrongly accused escapee and Marvel superhero-for-hire whose super-strength antics are set to a knockout soundtrack of soul, funk and rap.

The Get Down (Netflix)

Hip-hop and disco collide in New York in a show created by Baz Luhrmann.