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New Working Paper: Streaming Culture

Posted on    by Martin Kretschmer
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New Working Paper: Streaming Culture

By 2 June 2020May 13th, 2021No Comments

CREATe is publishing today a new working paper Streaming Culture, offering a fascinating analysis of changing online consumption behaviour in the five years between 2013 and 2018. This is joint work with Nesta, within the AHRC Creative Industries Policy & Evidence Centre (PEC) where the paper is also available as a Research Report.

This research is the result of a data development project conducted in collaboration with the UK Intellectual Property Office.  The project, OMeBa (short for Online Media Behaviour Analytics), is an attempt to unlock the value of an important annual consumer survey. The Online Copyright Infringement (OCI) tracker survey was originally conceived in 2012 as a standard instrument to capture trends in online copyright infringement. It was designed by Ofcom with Kantar Media in response to a (now defunct) obligation under the 2010 Digital Economy Act.

By harmonizing question IDs, and documenting carefully method and changes across five waves of the survey, the OMeBa project made it possible to identify wider changes in online consumption over time, enabling new research questions to be asked.

As part of this data development initiative, Nesta and CREATe held a workshop in June 2019 (documented on the OMeBa resource page). The discussion highlighted a shared interest across government, industry and academia to increase understanding of digital consumption behaviours by different demographic groups.  The research presented today is a response to this challenge.


Using five waves (2013-18) of a representative survey of the UK population (commissioned for different purposes by the UK Intellectual Property Office), we investigate the changing online culture consumption behaviour of UK adults aged 12 and above, with a focus on streaming.  The demographic breakdown of digital consumers of feature films, TV programmes, video games, e-books, music tracks/ albums, and music videos shows that the propensity to consume digitally (as well as how much is spent on digital content) varies strongly with age for film, TV and music. Age and social class predict whether people participate in streaming at all. Not everyone will become a digital streamer. This has ethical implications (cultural participation) but also offers commercial opportunities for a large untapped market in the 55+ age group.

The analysis, illustrated beautifully in the following visualisations by Raphael Leung (a data scientist at Nesta), confirms in many ways what we all suspected. Streaming has increased. The most avid consumers are young (16-24 in the media of music and film), and in the case of video games very young (12-15). Consumers of games are mostly male. Only in the consumption of e-books does the older generation (45+) prevail.


Figure 3: Demographic changes in digital consumption of film/TV


Figure 4: Demographic changes in digital consumption of games and e-books


Figure 5: Demographic changes in digital consumption of music


Much more surprising is the prevalence of non-consumption in the 55+ group, and the extent to which socio-economic class seems to be a predictor of behaviour. This invites more detailed exploration (see for example Heather Carey, Dave O’Brien and Neil Lee’s work on the class structure of cultural occupations).

Within the work of the AHRC Creative Industries Policy & Evidence Centre (PEC), we hope that the initiative demonstrates more generally the derivative potential that can be generated through a process of open data development. For example, in response to the current Covid-19 pandemic, the PEC has been able to partner with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and research agency AudienceNet (which is now the supplier of the annual OCI tracker survey) to add a cohort study, following the consumption behaviour of 1,000 consumers over a six-week period since 9 April 2020. This exciting work is being reported in stages. Further information is directly available from the PEC.