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TV: A Window to the World during the COVID-19 Pandemic

The TV throughout 2020 certainly re-enforced its ‘window to the world’ status due to stay-at-home orders, providing access to news and entertainment for the whole family during a period of isolation and instability. With this in mind, it is understandable that 2020 saw the steepest growth in UK TV sales in over a generation, which exceeded 8 million sets. Being deprived of opportunities to enjoy holidays, cinema, theatre, concerts and so forth, people naturally gravitated towards the TV and diverted their spend towards TV sets and services, such as Netflix and Disney+.

Sporting Seasonal Trends to Drive Sales Further

With the pandemic stretching further into 2021, it is likely that above normal demand for new TV’s will extend well into this year. The delayed European Football Championships in June/July and the Olympics in July/August will provide further motivation to purchase a new TV for those who have not already done so.  It is worth noting that Soundbars have also enjoyed boosted demand because of the lockdowns and these certainly enhance sporting events as well as movies.

Consumer Demand for Simple Smart Features

In terms of features, the Futuresource Living with Digital consumer research programme, conducted last June, reveals that TV owners in the UK put Smart features top of their list for their next TV purchase. Second on their checklist is 4K UHD, with a larger screen third on their priority list.

Other options such as OLED/QLED and 8K come much further down in priority, outranked by the ability to operate the set using a voice assistant such as Google or Alexa. This emphasises the fact that consumers crave simplicity of user interface, in addition to OTT services and good picture quality.  That said, screen technology is always an area of focus, so shoppers will be eyeing up OLED and QLED sets and considering the respective costs and benefits with screen size in mind. Environmental and energy conscious consumers will also increasingly be asking about the amount of energy consumed by TV sets, with higher resolution often leading to higher energy consumption.

Online Channel Promotion is Key

We believe that over half of all TV sets bought in the UK last year were acquired online (either for click and collect or delivery), and we expect a similarly high proportion this year. Retailers need to be aware that many consumers will be relying heavily upon online reviews and promotional material to help pilot them through the many options available.  

Whilst the pandemic and its ongoing impact remains volatile, Futuresource anticipates that TV set sales will be lower than last year’s total. However, they will still exceed the total sold in 2019. In terms of spend on entertainment services, the reopening of cinemas will reduce our reliance on the TV for enjoying movies, but it will at least help the flow of new releases to OTT and Pay-TV platforms later in the year.

For more information on the Futuresource Living with Digital Report and TV Market Report, please contact

Date Published:

David Sidebottom

About the author

David Sidebottom

David is a Principal Analyst – Media and Entertainment. David has over 20 years’ experience in a research and consultancy environment and is closely involved in researching, analysing and consulting on key content industry and consumer technology developments worldwide, with a particular focus on the evolution of digital business models in the TV, video and music industry. David works with a wide variety of high profile Futuresource clients across the content ecosystem including studios, broadcasters, technology companies, hardware vendors, service providers and industry associations. He also directs Futuresource’s long-running global consumer panel ‘Living with Digital’.

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