Find out how broadband has transformed TV, films, music and books

From streaming TV and films to downloadable songs and books and thrilling podcasts, high-speed broadband has opened up a world of entertainment possibilities.

Last updated: 1 March 2019 - 6.49pm

Few things have had such a dramatic effect on our lives than the internet, and the world of mass entertainment is no exception.

Broadband in particular has transformed mass entertainment since the days when people made do with a handful of TV channels, a small selection of radio stations and a trip to the local fleapit.

[Read more: The connected and smart home explained]

With broadband lines installed across the country, services such as BT TV now offer options from Channel 1 to Channel 501, while Netflix and Spotify vie with the BBC and ITV in offering new ways to entertain viewers across all genres. 


Fear the Walking Dead

Fear the Walking Dead

Over half of UK households now have TV sets connected to the internet according to Ofcom, with access to high-profile series such as Game of Thrones driving a move away from the shared live family viewing of the past to “appointment viewing” of on-demand programmes or streamed content.

Public service broadcasters (PSB) such as the BBC are also no longer seen as the dominant source of valued, quality content, with drama now commissioned for services including Netflix rivalling that on PSB.


BT TV Store

In 1946, Britons clocked up 1,635 million cinema visits, but by 2016 this had dropped to just 168.3 million. And while blockbuster franchises like Star Wars and James Bond still draw big audiences for the shared big screen cinema experience, many viewers now access a vast array of movies at home via streamed services or fast broadband computer downloads.

BT TV Store offer hundreds of films on a pay-per-movie basis, augmented by a multitude of film channels. Add companies such as Netflix, offering hundreds of movies to watch anytime.



In the early days of the dial-up internet, it took 10 minutes to download one song. But today’s broadband allows sites such as Spotify, Apple, Google and Amazon to offer super-fast access to tens of thousands of tracks – downloaded or streamed. Other options include Last FM, Deezer, Soundcloud and Jay-Z’s Tidal.

Streaming music on-the-go via mobile data is also rising due to increasingly sophisticated mobile devices, 4G data networks and more generous data packages. For younger consumers in particular, these developments have slashed radio use.

There are also a variety of music channels on TV to enjoy too, on top of BT Music.

Radio and podcasts


Radio continues to be an important medium, though greater access to music via services including Spotify is cutting radio listening, especially among younger consumers. Internet radio remains a slow-burn phenomenon, despite offering access to a global array of distinctive niche stations. Podcasts have seen a recent surge of interest, ranging from cult comedy productions to factual content such as BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time or the US podcast Serial.

[Read more: 10 amazing podcasts you must download]



Books are one entertainment medium that has withstood the power of digitisation. Despite a wide range of e-reader devices from the likes of Amazon, UK e-book sales fell in 2016 by 4%, while physical books jumped by 2%.

Those who like to use e-readers are attracted by the ability to store hundreds of books which you can take with you anywhere, while physical book lovers prefer the ability to hold an actual book in their hands.

[Read more: 6 of the best e-readers from £60-£270]

Find out more about the history of communications in the UK at BT Archives

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