Broadcast TV still top with UK viewers

Broadcast TV still top with UK viewers

by Jonathan Thompson, Chief Executive, Digital UK

posted on March 12th, 2015

The eagle-eyed among you may have spotted that Ericsson recently published its 10 Hot Consumer Trends for 2015.

The first of these describes the familiar theme of The Streamed Future, and in particular suggests that streaming TV via the internet is now more popular that watching broadcast television among the 16-45-year-old age bracket. Its research – carried out across nine different countries – suggests that 80 per cent are watching streamed video several times a week – a higher percentage than for broadcast content.

The report then goes on to claim that this year will be historic, as we will all ‘watch streamed content more often than broadcast TV’

Well this would be historic, if it were actually true. But this use of statistics is rather like trying to argue that going to the dentist is more popular than watching Coronation Street because more people go to the dentist each year than watch Coronation Street.

In this instance, the true test of popularity is not really whether you’ve tried something once in a week but how we are all dividing our precious time between the different media services available to us.

Latest figures from Ofcom indicate that 93 per cent of UK adults watch live TV on a weekly basis. While there is less reliable data on the number of people that use streaming services, an earlier survey by the regulator in 2014 found that 37 per cent of online UK adults had used the internet for watching TV or video in the last week.

BARB analysis for the first three quarters of 2014 indicates that 88 per cent of all TV viewing in the UK is to programmes as they are broadcast, while the rest is either consumed off of a digital TV recorder (but still recorded from a broadcast source) or streamed. So, the argument that streamed content has overtaken broadcast is not quite as convincing when we look at what consumers are actually spending their time on.

Aha, I hear you say, but what about all the people who are streaming content to mobile devices that BARB may not capture? Well, yes, that is a growing model of consumption, but still a tiny part of overall media consumption – just 7 per cent of all the time we spend watching any kind of video (from DVDs and TV viewing to cat videos on YouTube) according to Ofcom. At home this tends to be on a wide-screen television, on the move it will inevitably be a tablet or smart phone. And funnily enough most media consumption remains in home in the evening and not on the bus or train, and that’s one form of human behaviour we don’t see changing any time soon.

It is of course interesting and important that more and more people are watching streamed services. This is particularly true for younger audiences. We are keen to expand the ways in which people are able to access both broadcast television and IP-delivered content, which is why we are launching Freeview Play to make this easy and simple for as many people as possible.

Streaming is an important part of the future. So is broadcast television. We foresee a happy marriage of both for many years to come, based on their continued popularity.

But it is important when thinking about the future of this sector that we work from a reliable set of facts of how viewers are actually spending their time.

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