The State of Video Streaming in the UK
Research Intelligence

The State of Video Streaming in the UK

by Ariane Turley , Lead Publishers & Media Industry Consultant at Similarweb 4 Min.
June 11, 2020 | Updated June 22, 2022

The pandemic’s spread across the globe has shaken up entire industries. With millions of people staying home, video streaming is one category that has seen some very dramatic shifts. The European streaming space has been even further affected by the launch of Disney+ immediately following shelter-in-place orders.

One of the biggest countries to welcome this new player was the UK, which is a significant factor as to why there have been substantial shifts in this market.

This blog will examine how the British spend their time online, what happened to streaming giants, as well as local players, since the Coronavirus outbreak, and what impact Disney+ had on this space.

Key Findings

  • Before COVID-19, the top 6 players in British streaming saw 183M monthly visits on desktop, with a 6% annual growth rate
  • The Coronavirus outbreak caused a surge in traffic, and by April, traffic had grown by nearly 30%
  • Disney+ captured 3% of streaming video desktop traffic in March, despite only being live for one week
  • For both Disney+ and Netflix, brand awareness plays a significant role in discoverability and user acquisition. Content-related searches account for a small percentage of overall traffic

The British Streaming Space

The British streaming video category is made up of a few major competitors: Netflix, the global streaming leader, has 67% of baseline (pre-Coronavirus) desktop traffic, followed by BBC iPlayer with 23%. The top six sites in the category had an average of over 183M desktop visits monthly in the year preceding the COVID-19 outbreak, with February traffic 6% higher than the previous year – indicating steady growth.

In March, as the world stayed home, UK traffic to streaming services increased 16% Month-over-Month (MoM) and continued doing so throughout the coming weeks, rising 11% MoM in April. A more in-depth look at traffic patterns shows that traffic increases were mostly related to Netflix, whose 17% traffic increase in March, and 12% in April, made up 67% of the total category’s traffic increase. Despite not being able to compete with Netflix’s overall share, smaller streaming players, including NowTV, Channel 4, and BBC iPlayer, all saw significant growth in March 2020, increasing 21%, 31%, and 22%, respectively.

Disney+ Makes A Splash

Disney+ launched in the UK on March 24th, the day after a national lockdown was imposed. In the first week of Disney+’s launch, they received over 3.6M visits on desktop. Despite only being live for a week, Disney+ was able to capture 3% of total desktop traffic for the entire month of March and took the third spot as the most-visited streaming platform.

When looking at mobile apps, Disney+ also dominated in March and April. In the first week of its launch, Disney+ received over 1.1M downloads via Google Play. Between March and April, Disney+ averaged 2.7M monthly downloads, nearly 1M more than the next closest competitor, Netflix.

In Mobile apps, Disney+ also dominates downloads

Despite high download numbers, Disney+ has not yet caught up to well-established apps, in terms of its user base. Daily active users for Disney+ averaged 68K, vs. 731K for Netflix. Despite low daily active users, those who are on the platform are very engaged. Disney+ boasts the highest average time-per-user, with the average user spending 56 minutes on the app every day.

In Mobile apps, Disney+ also dominated in March and April

How has Disney+ acquired its users? The majority of Disney+’s traffic between March and April 2020 was direct (66%). Organic search comprised 18% of overall traffic, paid search 10%, and display advertising 3%. Interestingly, organic and paid search, channels which bring 21% of its total traffic, are hardly utilized by However, reviewing keywords, we find that most of the keywords sending traffic to these sites are branded, with a small percentage of them related to specific content available on each platform.

Although referral traffic drives a small percentage of overall traffic to their site, one Disney+ launch strategy is partnering with the telecommunications company, O2. When signing up for a new phone contract or upgrading an existing one via O2, consumers can get six months free of Disney+. O2 accounts for over 3% of Disney’s referral traffic share, with the share up almost 400% in April 2020.

Disney+ is partnering with the telecommunications company, O2

As people remain stuck at home, the streaming category continues to grow. However, as more competitors enter the UK market, the space is becoming increasingly fragmented. Will Netflix be able to retain its market share? Will Disney+ continue to grow? For more insights and updates on the streaming category, contact us.

See which categories were most impacted by the virus in our COVID-19 Hub.

Note: The data presented in this blog post is based on Similarweb estimates and is not verified by any of the sites analyzed.

This post is subject to Similarweb legal notices and disclaimers.

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