Americans, Italians lead TV viewing as Brits drop


Michelle Clancy

| 08 September 2015

Americans watch an average of 531 minutes of TV per day, equivalent to almost six hours; in contrast, every major European market watches less TV than that.

"Americans use TV differently to many other parts of the world," said Dan Cryan, senior director of media and content at IHS Technology. "While Europeans will put on the radio for background noise, Americans will turn on the TV. This helps to explain why American linear TV viewing is remains higher than economically challenged Italy."

Traditional TV has an entrenched role in American lives, but that position is being chipped away by alternative content and consumption models. "We are seeing a quiet revolution in the way that Americans watch video," Cryan said.

The decline in linear TV has been more or less offset by the growth of other forms of viewing. Online long-form programming from the likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime and Twitch grew 24% per person at a national level in 2014, although the consumption growth from the users of online services is frequently much higher than this.

Meanwhile, Italians spend about four hours and 20 minutes a day watching TV: that's more than any other European country. Unlike the rest of Europe, Italians actually increased their average daily consumption of broadcast TV in 2014. Following a steep fall in 2007, traditional TV viewing grew by an average of four minutes and 42 seconds per person per day between 2008 and 2014.

Brits are watching less TV than ever before, as the average viewing time across all platforms decreased by 14 minutes between 2013 and 2014 to reach around three hours of TV each day. And, on average, the French watch about 216 minutes of broadcast TV per day, ten minutes less than the year before, but well above the 2010 average. The Spanish watch on average 242 minutes of TV per day, a slight drop from 2013's figure.

The study also found that analogue cable and poor Internet lines in Germany meant that online and pay TV on demand video has not grown as much in Germany as across other European countries. Germans watched 210 minutes of broadcast TV every day in 2014, an average that did not change from the year before. Pay-TV subscriptions in Germany grew by 700,000 in 2014, continuing its seven year growth trend.

"When it comes to TV, German consumers prefer to pay for access rather than content, and as a result, traditional television channels that offer popular shows remain dominant in the German market," said Daniel Sutton, analyst at IHS Technology.

Across Europe, IHS Technology research indicates that traditional broadcast television viewing is being overtaken by two forces: personal video recorders (PVRs) like Sky+, and online video from services like Netflix and BBC iPlayer. More time than ever before is being shifted from traditional broadcast television to online.

"The UK was an early mover with high quality online catch-up services from local broadcasters like the BBC and Channel 4," said Cryan. "This has now been joined with clever marketing initiatives like digital box sets from Sky and the presence of the major platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime."

In 2005, under three minutes a day in the UK was spent watching recorded TV, but in 2014 Brits spent approximately 43 minutes a day watching recorded shows on services like Sky+ and YouView.

The study also uncovered that the use of online services in France is growing, though not at the speed seen in the UK. Non-traditional viewing time increased by 17%, reaching 21 minutes per person per day. The largest increases came from pay TV operators' video on demand services, which grew about 20% to seven minutes per person per day.

Netflix launched in France in the final quarter of 2014, and the result of this late entrance and its full impact is not visible in the 2014 figures.

"Pay-TV operators in France are clearly concerned about the competition from Netflix, as we saw providers expanding their on-demand offerings with new features and services to combat the threat," Cryan said.

Meanwhile, the prominence of analogue cable in Germany has hindered the development of high volume video-on-demand (VOD) platforms. Some 55% of German pay TV subscribers are still limited to linear VOD technologies such as nVoD or live pay-per-view. Deutsche Telekom and Unitymedia launched VOD services in 2006, and while these were initially slow to grow, they now reach 47% of the total pay-TV market.

In Italy, an average of 17 minutes per day are spent on online video and pay tv viewing. "Continued growth of viewing, in particular linear, can be attributed to Italy's difficult financial situation, with high unemployment correlating to an increase in TV viewing time on a per person per day basis," Cryan said.

Online viewing times are very low compared to the other countries in the study. "Despite investment, we are not seeing the kind of pick up or adoption in other European countries," Cryan added.

And in Spain, online video viewing increased by 24%, reaching eight minutes per person, per day. At roughly 11% of total non-linear viewing time, online long-form video has developed more in Spain then its fellow Mediterranean market Italy in terms of viewing.