New releases from Call of Duty, Fortnite and Apex Legends also drove huge spikes in February and March, leading to some of the busiest days for broadband traffic.
The figures were released by Virgin Media O2, following an analysis of more than 47 million customers between 01 January to 10 December 2021, and explored the nation’s internet use over a troubling year.
After months of doom and gloom tuning into the Prime Minister’s daily Coronavirus briefings, Brits showed signs of pandemic fatigue this year, with average news consumption viewing decreasing by 15 percent, compared to 2020.
Fed up with Covid, the nation’s attention turned to the return of live sport, which resulted in a 24 percent growth in sports viewing.
The busiest days of TV viewing were linked to some of the biggest sporting moments early in the year, including the FA Cup clashes, India vs England Test Cricket, and The Super Bowl.
However, data usage dropped during all of England’s Euro 2020 games, with downloads down 28 percent during the final compared to the previous week.
Jeanie York, chief technology and information officer at Virgin Media O2, said: “This has been another rollercoaster of a year, and our digital behaviours reflect that.
“Amidst another lockdown and varying restrictions, we’ve seen a sustained growth in demand for our services as customers have made a long-term shift to hybrid-working, and we’ve seen the explosion of online gaming – all of which enhance our need for ultrafast and reliable connectivity across our fixed and mobile networks.”
The data revealed that Brits downloaded an average of 18.9GB of broadband data per day between January and February 2021 – a 52 percent increase on pre-pandemic levels.
And mobile traffic was up 45 percent year-on-year.
The peak period for broadband download traffic shifted from 8pm in the evening to 4pm in the afternoon in February 2021 – suggesting many frazzled parents used services like Netflix, YouTube and gaming to distract their kids whilst juggling work commitments.
October saw peak download traffic return to 8pm, as Brits adapted to new hybrid working patterns and resumed the usual school run again, switching back to “Netflix and chill” in the evenings.
The release of Squid Game drove the highest average peak of traffic to Netflix on October 3, with traffic to the streaming site 27 percent higher than the typical weekend.
And the quietest day for data uploads on the O2 Mobile network was May 30, as Brits put down their devices to enjoy the warm bank holiday weekend.
It also emerged that June saw users turn to Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat more than ever – with usage across the four apps accounting for 41 percent of all customer activity.
While October saw TikTok account for seven per cent of all app usage.
Jeanie York added: “The data is clear that these changes are long-lasting – even as we regained our freedom, we continued to connect with friends and family.
“Whatever 2022 has in store for us, we’re fully prepared to keep the country connected with the things they love.”