Big screen maintains iron grip on TV viewing

Joseph O'Halloran | 17-02-2014

Despite there never being more devices on which to watch TV and video, the TV set is still used for virtually all home viewing in the UK, research from Thinkbox has revealed.

The marketing body for commercial TV in the UK — whose shareholders include Channel 4, ITV, Sky Media, Turner Media Innovations and UKTV, and who together represent over 90% of UK commercial TV advertising — found that the average viewer watched just over three hours, 55 minutes of TV a day during 2013, with as much as 98.5% of programmes watched on a TV set.

Non-TV set screens such as tablets and laptops accounted for the remaining 1.5%, up from 1.2% of total viewing in 2012 despite a huge increase in the amount of such devices available to viewers. The three minutes, 30 seconds a day viewing via devices such as tablets, smartphones and laptops was mostly from on-demand sources but also included some live streams.

“New screens are making TV even more convenient for viewers and creating new opportunities for advertisers,” commented Lindsey Clay, Thinkbox’s chief executive. “But the more we learn, the clearer it becomes that the TV set will remain our favourite way to watch TV – especially as on-demand services become more available on the best screen.”

What makes the data more interesting is that 2013 was seen as a relatively fallow year for TV viewing, lacking a major sporting event such as the football World Cup and Olympic Games. Indeed this contributed to the total viewing time being nine minutes a day less than 2012, and in 2013 88.7% of linear TV was watched live compared to 89.9% a year earlier. That said, in 2013 the average viewer watched 12 minutes more linear TV a day in 2013 than ten years ago, and the World Cup in 2014 is likely to boost linear TV viewing.

Looking at further trends revealed in the survey, Thinkbox found that if viewing that takes place between eight to 28 days after broadcast is included in the total it adds an extra two minutes per person per day, taking total daily viewing to three hours, 57 minutes. The survey also showed that just over four-fifths of all time-shifted viewing is watched within two days of recording and just under half (47%) of such viewing is seen within 24 hours of it being recorded. In the estimated 59% of UK households that own DVRs, 83.6 % of linear TV was watched live compared to 84.4% in 2012.

Once all households have the ability to digitally record TV programmes, Thinkbox expects the average level of recorded and playback TV viewing to settle at around 15-20% of total linear viewing, as it has in those households that do currently own DVRs. However it also believes that on-demand TV will increase as a proportion of the time-shifted total.