Almost everyone in Britain believes that within five years they will be watching television or video programmes from the internet or from a digital video recorder to watch when they want, if the results of recent research are any guide. A separate survey suggests that electronic programme guides have relatively little influence in what people watch, compared to trailers and other media. Meanwhile television is no longer viewed as a necessity in America, although the average home still has more sets than people.

Rovi, a company with a history in electronic programme guides, commissioned research covering a 1,000 people in the United Kingdom aged over 20 years.

Almost half of those surveyed already make use of digital video recorders. They reported that they were more likely to spend time socialising or spending more quality time with friends and family as a result, although viewing figures suggest that people are watching as much television as ever. A feature of timeshifted television viewing is that people are less likely to want to discuss a programme they have not yet seen, which is regarded as a major annoyance, along with missing an episode of a programme.

An astonishing 97% of respondents think that by 2015 they will be getting their television and video programming either recorded to watch on their schedule, or from the internet. Over half of those surveyed thought that having a television connected to the internet will make it easier to find programming they want to see. Two-thirds currently plan their viewing using the electronic programme guide, with less than 40% still using a magazine guide.

Meanwhile, another survey from TV Genius, which produces recommendation systems, suggests that while most viewers use the electronic programme guide, it has comparatively little influence over their choice of viewing. Newspapers and magazines, as well as on-screen promotions and online sources, are still more important.

The TV Genius research covered 3,000 viewers in the UK, France, Germany, Poland and Sweden. While over 80 per cent of respondents in continental Europe reported using an electronic programme guide, the figure rose to 96% for the United Kingdom. Of those that occasionally use the EPG, only 3% said it influenced what they watch, while 37% said magazines were major influencers. Even among frequent EPG users, only 35% said it was influential in their viewing. Those aged 18-24 said trailers were the most influential, followed by online sources, while those aged over 55 were more likely to be influenced by magazines.

“It is evident from our research that consumers consider the EPG an important part of the TV experience, yet it is traditional media such as magazines that have a stronger influence over what they decide to watch,” said Tom Weiss, the chief executive of TV Genius.

The television itself could be going the way of the printed programme guide, according to another research report. A telephone survey of a representative sample of nearly 3,000 adults in America by the Pew Research Center found that just 42% of Americans regard a television set is a necessity, rather than a luxury they could do without. That compares to 52% in 2009, the lowest figure for forty years, over which it has consistently been over 60%. The number fell to 29% among those aged 18-29. Among all respondents, only 23% saw cable or satellite television as a necessity, compared to 34% for high-speed internet. Only 10% see flat screen television as a necessity.

One factor is economic recession and a downturn in consumer spending. Yet, as fewer Americans say they consider the television set to be a necessity of life, the average American home now has more television sets than people — 2.86 according to Nielsen, up from 2.43 a decade ago and 2.0 in 1990.