Nine in 10 young viewers watch shows online

Younger viewers also spent more viewing time online than on traditional TV: Survey

Streaming movies and shows over the Internet has become a norm in Singapore, with the highest viewership among millennials, namely those aged 15 to 34.

This is according to an inaugural survey conducted by the Media Development Authority (MDA) to track the population's viewing habits with the increasing availability of over-the-top (OTT) video services such as Netflix, Apple iTunes and YouTube.

The authority conducted face-to-face interviews with 2,585 Singaporeans and permanent residents up to age 65 late last year.

About 90 per cent of those aged 15 to 34 used OTT video services, although the national average was just over 50 per cent.

Younger viewers spent a greater proportion of their viewing time online than on traditional TV.

For instance, children up to age 14 spent about two-thirds of their weekly viewing time on OTT services, with the rest on traditional TV.

In comparison, OTT services dominated about 60 per cent of millennials' weekly viewing time, and 48 per cent for those aged 35 to 54.

Mr David McGregor, Ernst & Young partner for technology, media and telecommunications, said millennials form an important audience for media companies wanting to underpin future revenue.

"They are the next generation with high disposable income," he said.

Marketing manager Aaron Koh, 40, said his eight-year-old son streams from YouTube most of the time because his favourite programmes - created by online gamers - are not available on traditional TV.

These include parodies of popular animated games and shows such as Five Nights At Freddy's and Star Wars.

"He aspires to be a YouTube host one day," said Mr Koh.

MDA's survey indicated that the most popular OTT services were YouTube and social networks such as Facebook. About 20 per cent of respondents also said they accessed content on piracy websites.

Geographically-blocked sites such as the United States version of video streaming services Netflix and Hulu - which require technical workarounds to access from Singapore - accounted for only 1 per cent of viewership.

Meanwhile, paid video services like those from Apple iTunes and Google Play accounted for 4 per cent and 7 per cent of viewership here, respectively.

Only 11 per cent of OTT viewers paid for their content. Those who did not pay cited the availability of free content online as the key reason.

Asked if they would consider paying for online videos, more than three-quarters said they would not.

But Mr McGregor believes that if media companies provide unique content via an easy-to-use interface at a fair price, user behaviour will change.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 15, 2016, with the headline Nine in 10 young viewers watch shows online. Subscribe