How many Brits are streaming?

And how many are viewing illegally?

The way we watch TV has changed dramatically over recent years. Whether it’s your favourite film or a binge-worthy TV show, you no longer need to record it on your television set. Now, you can relax and watch it in your own time, as long as spoilers don’t ruin it for you beforehand.

Despite the plethora of legal subscription platforms available, many Brits stream illegally to avoid expensive cinema trips and subscription fees. No matter how you catch up on TV and film, subscription platforms have become such a big part of our lives that we decided to do some research to find the UK’s favourite services and see just how many of us watch them illegally.

Brits streaming activity

Our survey found that 4 in 5 (81%) or 42.4 million Brits streamed using paid services in some capacity over the last year. 8.9 million illegally streamed TV shows, films and sport over the past 12 months. That’s 17% of Brits that have admitted to doing so. This is the sixth most popular streaming activity in the UK.

Films are streamed illegally the most, with 5.3 million Brits sitting down to catch their favourite movies online for free, which is 13% of all streamers. Next up was TV programmes (12%) like Game of Thrones, followed by football matches (11%) in third and finally other sports (9%) in fourth.

When it comes to paid streaming services, Netflix is by far the most popular platform with two thirds of Brits (66%) using it over the last 12 months, which totals an impressive 28.4 million users in the UK. In second place is Amazon with almost half (49%) of all streamers and Sky Go came in at third with 29%. On the other end of the spectrum we found MUBI is the least popular streaming platform, with only 1 in 20 (5%) online viewers using the service over the last year.

All activities Of streamers
Netflix 66.12%
Amazon Prime 48.69%
Sky Go 28.70%
TV Player 27.91%
Now TV 23.71%
BT TV 15.48%
Illegally streamed films 12.55%
Illegally streamed TV 11.94%
Google Play 11.58%
Illegally streamed football 10.48%
Apple's TV app 9.38%
TalkTalk TV 9.32%
Illegally streamed other sports 8.90%
Hayu 7.37%
Rakuten 7.19%
Cinema Now 6.95%
Microsoft store 6.58%
MUBI 5.30%

Gender differences

An almost equal amount of males and females streamed shows, sport and films over the last 12 months (83% vs 81%). However, men leaned more towards illegal viewing than women, with almost a quarter (25%) of males doing so, compared to only 17% of females. This is likely to be due to the fact that more males are streaming football (14% vs 7%) and other sports (12% vs 6%) illegally than women are.

All activities Female
Amazon Prime 48.80%
Hayu 6.85%
Sky Go 24.64%
Netflix 71.51%
Now TV 23.44%
TV Player 27.64%
BT TV 10.58%
MUBI 4.33%
TalkTalk TV 7.69%
Rakuten 6.13%
Cinema Now 5.41%
Apple's TV app 7.45%
Microsoft Store 4.33%
Google Play 9.62%
Illegally streamed 16.83%
Illegally streamed TV 11.06%
Illegally streamed films 11.78%
Illegally streamed football 7.09%
Illegally streamed other sports 6.01%

Regional differences

Londoners are the most streaming-savvy region, with 87% of residents using these services over the last year. In contrast, the North East of England is the most traditional area when it comes to online viewing, with only three quarters (74%) of its residents streaming sport, films and TV shows.

Londoners are far more likely than any other region in the UK to watch illegal platforms too, with almost a third (31%) of streamers in the capital saying they used these free services over the last 12 months. Those living in the South West of England are least likely to stream illegally, with only 15% of online watchers doing so.

Region Percentage that stream illegally
East Anglia 15.97%
East Midlands 18.92%
London 31.44%
North East 25.00%
North West 19.44%
Northern Ireland 20.93%
Scotland 24.62%
South East 18.49%
South West 14.48%
Wales 19.28%
West Midlands 16.56%
Yorkshire and the Humber 21.26%

Age differences

Those aged 18–24 stream the most overall with 95% watching online. This age group is also far more likely to watch illegally, with more than a third (35%) of those who stream admitting to doing so. In contrast, those over 55 streamed the least, with only 69% watching online. Additionally, this age group is least likely to stream illegally, with only a 10th (11%) admitting to doing so.

Age Percentage that stream illegally
18-24 35.00%
25-34 27.13%
35-44 23.26%
45-54 18.89%
55+ 11.15%

The fact that our research found over 80% of Brits used a paid streaming service last year shows just how much we rely on online streaming. Services like these give you unlimited access to hundreds of films and TV shows, with Netflix currently listing 1847 titles in the UK for example. These inevitably work out being far cheaper than the alternative of buying DVDs or subscribing to specific TV channels to watch your favourite programmes. Although it can be tempting to view illegally, there are many legal services that can offer reasonable rates that cater for all genres and also cover sporting events.”

Jon Ostler, UK CEO at

Methodology commissioned Onepoll on 24th-27th September 2019 to carry out a nationally representative survey of adults aged 18+.
A total of 2,000 people were questioned throughout Great Britain, with representative quotas for gender, age and region.
Jon Ostler, CEO (UK) at is available for further comment, opinions or interview regarding the research

For all media enquiries, please contact

Matt Mckenna
UK communications manager
T: +44 20 3828 1338

Related articles

Matthew Boyle's headshot
Written by


Matthew Boyle is a banking and mortgages publisher at Finder. He has a 7-year history of publishing helpful guides to assist consumers in making better decisions. In his spare time, you will find him walking in the Norfolk countryside admiring the local wildlife. See full bio

Matthew's expertise
Matthew has written 244 Finder guides across topics including:
  • Helping first-time buyers apply for a mortgage
  • Comparing bank accounts and highlighting useful features
  • Publishing easy-to-understand guides

More guides on Finder

Go to site