Joseph O'Halloran | 01-08-2013
Contrary to fears that TV everywhere and connected devices had ended family viewing, research from Ofcom has found that these products and services are transforming the traditional living room into a digital media hub.
The UK TV regulator’s Communications Market Report 2013 revealed that people are still coming together to watch TV in the living room. Even though an increasing array of digital media are now vying for viewers’ attention, as many as 91% of UK adults view TV on the main set each week, up from 88% in 2002.
Yet, maybe counter intuitively, even though the average UK household owns at least three types of Internet-enabled device, the TV set in the living room retains its importance: 41% of UK households had just one TV in 2012, compared with 35% in 2002. In the first quarter of 2013, half (52%) of 5-15-year-olds had a TV in their bedroom. In 2007 this was 69%.
And despite the huge variety of VOD, catch-up and over-the-top services now available to UK viewers, many free of charge, live TV accounted for 90% of all viewing in 2012, with the average viewer watching just over four hours of TV a day. This was 15 minutes more than in 2008. TV sets over 43” accounted for 15.8% of sales in the first quarter 2013, a 4.3 percentage point increase on 2012. Nearly three-fifths of tablet audiovisual content viewers watched live TV at least weekly via this device.
The huge growth in take-up of smartphones and tablets was though, said Ofcom, creating a nation of media multitaskers, with people streaming videos and consuming social media while watching more TV than before.
The UK is becoming a connected-device hotspot with the research revealing that the average household now owns more than three types of Internet-enabled device, with one in five owning six or more. Over half of adults (51%) now own a smartphone, almost double the proportion two years ago (27%). At the same time, tablet ownership has more than doubled in the past year, rising from 11% of homes to 24%.
Over half (53%) of UK adults are now media multitasking while watching TV on a weekly basis. Watching other content on a different device is one of these activities leading to new phenomena such as media meshing and media stacking.
Ofcom defines the former as carrying out activities or communicating via other devices while watching TV, these activities related to the TV programme being watched; it regards media stacking is carrying out activities or communicating via other devices while watching TV but the activities are not related to the TV programme being watched.
In terms of how much of such activities are taking place, Ofcom calculates that a quarter of people are regularly media meshing such as talking on the phone (16%) or texting (17%) about what is being watched, using social networks (11%) or ‘apps’ to communicate directly with programmes (3%). Younger people are most likely to use other media while watching TV (74%), with 44% media meshing.
As regards media stacking, just under half use their smartphones and tablets for completely unrelated activities while watching TV every week. This includes such as surfing the net (36%), social networking (22%) or online shopping (16%).Women are significantly more likely to media multitask weekly (56% compared to 51% of men), as are those with children at home (66%).
“Our research shows that increasingly families are gathering in the living room to watch TV just as they were in the 1950s – but now delivered on bigger, wider and more sophisticated sets,” said James Thickett, Ofcom’s director of research. “Unlike the 1950s family, however, they are also doing their own thing. They are tweeting about a TV show, surfing the net or watching different content altogether on a tablet. Just a few years ago, we would be talking about last night’s TV at work or at school. Now, we’re having those conversations live while watching TV – using social media, text and instant messaging.”