All I want for Christmas is Netflix – why streaming is our beloved new festive tradition

With online streaming becoming increasingly popular as our viewing habits change, what will you be watching this Christmas?

British traditions come alive at Christmas like no other time: the madcap shopping and wrapping of presents; the garish jumpers and hats; the awful jokes; dad falling asleep to The Snowman; Brussels sprouts and left-over turkey sandwiches; the Queen’s Speech; never-ending charades and chocolate; dad waking up during the evening film and looking confused.

Just like the unexpected extra relatives crowding round the dinner table, there’s always room for more traditions – with digital streaming now entering our homes and hearts on the big day and festive season.

In 2019, Netflix is striking the right notes with its A Christmas Prince cheesy trilogy, Amazon Prime has some old classics (It’s A Wonderful Life; White Christmas), while Disney Plus is keeping the children entertained with Home Alone and The Muppet Christmas Carol. A streaming feast for the whole family.

A UK breakdown is not available but to provide context, last year’s UK Christmas Day TV ratings battle was won by Michael McIntyre’s festive special, watched by 6.1 million on BBC One. To put that in perspective, Only Fools and Horses and EastEnders attracted over 20 million in their pomp, while other Christmas Day 2018 big hitters (Strictly, Call the Midwife) were down by millions on 2017 – itself down 7% on 2016’s Christmas period overall.

Like a badly cooked turkey, these figures must be difficult to digest for TV bosses, as viewers flock to Netflix and their rivals for their annual dose of Christmas telly.

We’ve argued before how on-demand streaming services are turning traditional television into the Ghost of Christmas Past. But while Netflix, Amazon Prime, Disney Plus, Apple TV+ and others pose a danger to TV broadcasters, and perhaps less so cinema, they have quietly, quickly, without fuss – and even warmly – been welcomed into our precious Christmas itineraries and tinsel-coated living rooms. Provided you have a reliable connection, it’s the ease of a few buttons at the end of a long day to indulge in your favourite film or TV box set. Gone are the days of hunting, and fiddling, with DVDs and Blu-rays.

Here to stay is the cultural shift, because our data demands show no sign of abating. In its Communications Market Report 2019*, Ofcom found that average data consumption per fixed-line connection (your typical home or business broadband connection) increased by 26% to 240GB per month in 2018 – the equivalent of 80 hours of HD streaming on Netflix per month.

And it’s the original content we’re after too. Those troubling TV audience stats may point to a growing sense of frustration of tired annual repeats as much as the lure of instant streaming.

The streaming revolution is also, importantly, catering for children, who were originally assigned centre stage billing at this time of the year by Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol in the mid-19th century as Victorian Britain converted the festive season into a commercial enterprise for the first time (Christmas crackers; turkeys sent on long marches from East Anglia to London). Netflix has its ‘kids section’ while Disney Plus has an obviously large catalogue of childhood classics – interestingly reclaimed from Netflix’s archives.

These combined forces give rise to the obvious argument of the immediate installation of future-ready Hyperfast full fibre broadband. After the fun and games have ended and the children are kept entertained on their devices, and after the Google Home or Alexa assistants have pumped out their last Christmas songs of the day, the parents and grandparents will need enough bandwidth and capacity to stream their long-awaited festive films.

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Residents and businesses can find out if they’re in a village covered in our Hyperfast rollout by using our postcode checker here.

*https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0028/155278/communications-market-report-2019.pdf