There was a virtual Super Saturday last weekend: there was a record 24 hours for internet use in the UK.
From 10:35 a.m. on Saturday, November 21 to the same time the next day, TalkTalk customers consumed 41.2 million gigabytes of data, largely powered by streaming, which has now spread across most multimedia platforms.
Not long ago, we mainly watched terrestrial television, bought physical copies of movies we wanted to see or went to the cinema, and snap-up CDs or vinyl for our music fix. It has worked wonders for house clearing.
Gaming 2020: New consoles, including the Xbox Series X, have led to a spike in internet usage
But the other big factor behind this boom in internet usage is the launch of four new game consoles, according to TalkTalk – one of the largest telecom providers in the UK.
This time around, there are two versions of the Microsoft Xbox and two versions of the Sony PlayStation, which gamers were incredibly excited about in 2020.
With the launch of both this month, gamers have had the choice to buy either consoles with a digital-only mode. That is, you can’t buy physical games – they can only be downloaded to the console, which comes with a cheaper price tag.
While this exclusive data is given to the Consumer Trends column and does not include other major telecom providers, it has likely seen a similar increase.
This week we look at the streaming trend and how our internet infrastructure will deal with it.
Super Saturday: the perfect storm
Last Saturday, TalkTalk saw a record 24 hours of internet use, technology chief executive Gary Steen tells me.
The perfect storm was created by the new Playstation 5 launch two days earlier, with gamers downloading software and games, along with the current lockdown allowing more people to watch more streamed TV and movie content.
Internet usage was a third higher from the Saturday before (November 14), a third from the Sunday before, and was 58 percent higher than some Saturdays in the summer.
Gary also reveals there is an internet rush – or manic five minutes – with 9:10 am to 9:15 pm the most likely time to see a surge in usage.
And while the effect of ‘turning on the kettle’ is well documented, for example in the ad break for Coronation Street, this is being replaced by an internet spike as more people are using the time to browse the internet on their smartphones.
Next Generation: Those lucky enough to get their hands on the PS5 will see games that require huge files to download
Gaming: Download games and updates
Since the Playstation 5 had a digital edition for the first time, there was a spike when gamers unpacked the console and downloaded games, including Call of Duty.
This popular title requires a hefty 130 GB download for all maps and content, and with many people downloading it on the same day, it contributed to virtual Super Saturday.
Gary explains that these downloads and software updates cause the biggest traffic spikes – and that gaming with others online pales in comparison.
Instead, gamers want low latency, that is, the amount of time it takes the server to process the information in real time with others around the world.
While I’m no longer a gamer – aside from the odd precious time off I’ve spent here and there playing a game I’ve had since elementary school, Football Manager – I have plenty of friends the same age who are incredibly enthusiastic were to get their new consoles.
“It’s like playing your own movie right now, some of these games,” explains a friend. ‘I see it playing here and there for an hour or two as if you were watching a movie. It’s relaxing and enjoyable. ‘
The gaming arena has changed since I was a teenager thanks to the Internet. My friend gives me his old PS4 to try.
I can’t imagine getting the time to recharge it let alone download games, updates and log in to let others play online. But it’s safe to say that there will be plenty of other ‘older’ gamers glued to their screens in the coming months.
Watch time: How we watched more than six hours of TV, streamed movies and played video games in April 2020
TV and film: streaming booms in lockdown
According to data from comparison site Finder, more than 13 million households in Britain now have at least one paid streaming subscription – or more than half, up from 5.2 percent at the end of 2019.
A quarter has now registered for more than two. From the first three months of the year, Netflix was the most popular, followed by Amazon Prime and Now TV. Ofcom says Disney + Now has put TV in fourth place.
In April, the first full month of the original lockdown, households typically spent six hours and 25 minutes a day watching TV and online video content, according to Ofcom. This is a total of 45 hours per week – an increase from a third last year.
The biggest driver behind this was streaming services. People spend twice as much time watching Netflix, Amazon Prime, and the like, and the trend was even higher among the under-34s.
It estimates that 12 million have adopted a new video streaming service during shutdown, with a quarter of them using one for the first time.
UK broadcasters are facing a tough advertising market, production challenges and financial uncertainty. They must therefore continue to demonstrate that value in the face of fierce competition from streaming services.
Meanwhile, a third of 55-64 year-olds and 15 percent of those over 65 used subscription streaming services in the first weeks of lockdown – 25 and 12 percent, respectively, before the pandemic.
Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s director of strategy and research group, said: “British broadcasters are facing a tough advertising market, production challenges and financial uncertainty.
“So they have to keep showing that value in the face of fierce competition from streaming services.” It’s likely the streaming habit is here to stay.
Ofgem’s data suggests that our adoption of streaming services is likely to continue. The vast majority who signed up with Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney + said they plan to keep their subscriptions in the coming months.
Likewise, more than half of people say they will continue to spend as much time watching streamed content in the future as they do while locking.
Nearly three years ago, I argued that the revolution would not be televised, but streamed – and it seems to be coming true, with more even programming on BBC iPlayer, rather than live.
And as an example of how spoiled we are, I canceled Netlix last month for the first time in years (it has sent me a dozen emails since I asked to come back like a nagging ex).
The reasons? First, I found myself watching more documentaries and movies on Amazon Prime. Then there have been better programs on ‘regular’ television. And now TV has hooked me up for box sets – including follow-up at a bargain £ 1.99 for six months.
I can’t juggle so many subscriptions at once – I had to disappoint one …
Follow-up: The HBO show is available on Now TV – and it was £ 1.99 well spent
How does the network handle?
A petabyte is 1,000 terabytes. 1 terabyte – typically what people use for external storage for photos and the like – is 1,000 gigabytes.
The total used in that 24-hour period last weekend was 41,150,106 GB of data. This is the equivalent of nearly 14 million hours of HD video or 12 billion MP3 files per day.
According to Gary, the British network is perfectly capable of keeping up with the increase in internet use in the near future.
He also explains that they plan two to three years ahead to look at how to increase capacity to keep up.
I ask if Netflix and Sony, and the other companies that make us increasingly dependent on the Internet and faster connections, are paying part of the bill. He replies that they provide equipment to support the process.
For example, when Netflix launches a new movie, the movie is not streamed from Europe or the US, but the movie is banked somewhere in the UK to meet demand and maintain a good customer experience.
As our hunger for more and faster streaming continues to grow, he believes TalkTalk and the rest will be able to keep up – and he believes more records will be broken in the coming months, especially as all those new Xbox and PlayStation consoles come with Christmas unpacked.
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