Consumers are embracing entertainment through their computers but expect it to be free. Even those that are willing to pay will not bring new money into the market, as spending on other forms of entertainment will suffer. Those are among the findings of a survey of British consumers conducted by YouGov on behalf of the legal firm Olswang.

The results of the nationally representative independent survey of over 1,500 adults, boosted by a further 250 13-17 year olds, have been published in the Olswang Convergence Consumer Survey 2007.

Now in its third year, the survey provides strong support for advertising, rather than payment, as the business model for online media.

“True convergence is starting to take hold in UK households, with more people networking their devices to share content in the home and taking this content with them when on the move,” said Matthew Phillips, a partner in the Olswang media, communications and technology practice. “This has intensified demand for free content, as consumers want a full range of content for these devices but are unwilling to pay for it. New challenges are facing broadcasters, rights holders and service providers who are keen to target these consumers but need to overcome the issue of reluctance to pay.”

“Advertising is likely to become the natural alternative as companies battle to attract an audience that is willing to accept adverts with their content — as long as the content is free. However, the challenge will also include ensuring that consumers keep on the right side of the law as they begin to download more and more material and to use it on an ever-increasing range of devices.”

The survey does not make encouraging reading for those seeking to persuade consumers to buy online content. People are not generally inclined to pay and, where they will, this is at the expense of other pre-recorded media.

The report suggests that copyright owners continue to face an uphill battle to persuade consumers to accept digital rights management. Over 70% of respondents said that having purchased material they should have the freedom to transfer it between all their personal devices. Only 8% said they supported the use of digital rights management.

The Olswang Convergence Consumer survey 2007 provides a comprehensive guide to consumer habits in relation to media convergence. It can be downloaded from the Olswang web site.