There were over 2.6 billion requests for television programmes through the BBC iPlayer in 2014. A new report from KPMG suggests: “Rapid mainstream adoption of new technologies has precipitated a series of seismic shifts in media consumption patterns, forever altering consumer expectations and engagement levels.” Yet analysis of available viewing data shows that catch-up services still only account for a small percentage of the 1.5 billion hours of television a week watched in the United Kingdom.
KPMG reports that while the typical British family continues to congregate around the television set, they are drawn towards catch-up, rather than real-time, viewing. According to the report, 42% said they watch catch-up television compared to 24% who watch programmes as they are broadcast.
As informitv has often cautioned, there can be a significant difference between self-reported and actually observed behavior.
The Media Tracker report for KPMG is partly based on an online survey of 1,500 individuals aged 18-64 in the United Kingdom. It notes that access to multiple video devices is now commonplace across households in the United Kingdom and is not simply confined to the youngest or highest income groups. This is spreading the viewing of ‘catch-up’ television to multiple devices, but divergent preferences and habits persist between younger and older viewers. Tablets are seen as the clear winner in terms of expected uptake over the next six months.
Over three quarters of respondents to the survey had watched ‘catch-up’ television in the previous month. The most common screen for viewing catch-up services was the television, for 53% of respondents, followed by laptop or desktop computers at 33%, with tablets at 22% and smartphones at 10%.
The report suggests that although young adults were most likely to have watched catch-up services: “this cohort is turning away from the television as the preferred means of viewing programmes”. However, this is based on the observation that they were more likely to view catch-up services on laptop or desktop computers rather than a television.
The survey found that television was still the most popular screen for catch-up viewing for other age groups and this was notably true for those in higher income brackets.
David Elms, the head of media at KPMG, said: “What we can see is an industry in transition. Catch-up TV is beginning to drive viewing more than live broadcasts and the younger generation is pushing that trend much faster through their rapid adoption of a whole range of viewing devices. This has huge implications for the whole industry. Streaming providers, such as Netflix and Amazon TV, are increasingly able to play at a level playing field with major broadcasters.”
Other available industry data suggest that catch-up accounts of only a few per cent of total hours of television viewing.
Figures released by the BBC show that the BBC iPlayer received over 2.6 billion requests for television programmes in 2014. Requests from tablets increased by over 50% to 801 million, while those from mobiles were up by over 30% to 662 million.
The most popular television programme, the return of Sherlock, received 4.19 million requests, while Top Gear reached 3.81 million. Seven series titles made up the top twenty programmes over the year, with Top Gear taking eight of the top spots.
The most popular radio programmes were dominated by Test Match Special cricket coverage, which peaked at 312,500 requests and accounted for 13 of the top 20 programmes.
The BBC is by far the most popular catch-up television service in the United Kingdom. ITV reported slightly fewer than 500 million long form video requests across all platforms in the first nine months of 2014. That includes catch-up services on Sky, Virgin Media, BT, and other video aggregators such as iTunes, Amazon and Netflix.
Although these are notable figures, they hardly constitute a major change in viewing behaviour compared to the vast amount of traditional television viewing.
Analysis of BARB figures by informitv shows that in 2014 the average television viewing of all individuals in the United Kingdom aged four and over was 26 hours and 38 minutes a week, which is over 1,300 hours a year per person. That works out at over 1.5 billion hours of television a week across the country, or 76.5 billion hours a year.
For some reason the BBC does not publish figures for online viewing by duration, but usage of the BBC iPlayer across all platforms can still only amount to one or two per cent of television viewing at most. That would give it about the same share of television viewing as BBC Three, a channel that the BBC wants to cease broadcasting and turn into an online only service.