UTV most popular source of Northern Ireland news, Ofcom report finds

A general view of the UTV studio at City Quays 2 in Belfast.
UTV was the most popular source of news about Northern Ireland for people. Credit: UTV

UTV was the most popular source for news for people in Northern Ireland last year, a new report has found.

And the most popular television programme for 2021 was Oprah Winfrey's bombshell interview with Prince Harry and Meghan.

Ofcom's Media Nations report found that broadcast television remained the 'go-to' platform for for news, big event programming and drama - despite tough competition from online streaming giants.

It found 47% of people came to UTV for Northern Ireland news, compared to 38% to BBC One. Facebook was next on 18%.

It also revealed the top 10 most-watched TV programmes of the year in Northern Ireland, with a UTV Live from January 2021 the most popular news programme and placing fifth overall on the list.

Oprah Winfrey's interview with the Duke of Duchess of Sussex, which was shown on UTV, topped the list and was watched by 531,000 people in NI.

Harry and Meghan during their Oprah interview Credit: ITV Hub/Harpo Productions/CBS/PA

The top 10 most-watched TV programmes in Northern Ireland in 2021:

  • Oprah with Meghan and Harry

  • Line of Duty

  • Bloodlands

  • I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here!

  • UTV Live

  • Prime Ministerial Statement -

  • BBC Newsline


  • The Pembrokeshire Murders

  • Euro 2020

The report revealed that younger adults watch eight times less scheduled TV than those aged 55 and over, as the generation gap in media habits reaches a record.

People aged 16 to 24 spent 40 minutes in front of broadcast TV on average every day last year - a fall of three-quarters in the past decade.

Those aged over 54 still spend around a third of their waking day enjoying broadcast TV, sitting down for five and a half hours daily.

Ofcom's director for Northern Ireland Jonathan Rose said: "The generational gap in viewing habits is becoming wider with younger people rarely sitting down to watch TV in the way that older people do.

"Traditional broadcasters face tough competition from online streaming platforms, which they are partly meeting through the popularity of their own on-demand player apps, while broadcast television is still the place to go for news, big event programming and locally based dramas."

Some 70% of homes now have a paid-for service, but after years of strong growth in subscription video-on-demand (SVoD), the rate of increase has started to slow.

The market is still dominated by the US-based streamers - Netflix remains the most popular service, followed by Amazon Prime Video and Disney+.

Internet users in Northern Ireland aged 15 and above spent on average 21 minutes per day on TikTok and 39 minutes per day on Facebook and Messenger in March.

The report also found that people in Northern Ireland are more likely to use radio for news than in England, Scotland and Wales.

Local radio continues to outperform national stations, accounting for 58% of listening - the highest across the four UK nations.

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