Research from Ericsson ConsumerLab suggests that people are spending slightly less time watching scheduled broadcast television and more time watching online streamed programming. While this is self-reported behaviour, which may not necessarily correspond with observational studies, the year-on-year change is small but significant. At the very least it reflects an increased consumer perception of online video programmes, if not a growing trend.

The annual Ericsson television and video consumer trend report surveyed 13,000 customers in 13 countries. The latest results indicate that 84% watched scheduled broadcast television at least once a week, down from 88% the previous year. Interestingly, viewing of recorded broadcast television was also down, from 50% to 45%. There was a slight drop in DVD or Blu-Ray viewing, from 30% to 29%. By contrast, 47% watched short online video clips, up from 44%, while 33% watched streamed television programmes, up from 30%, and 25% streamed movies, up from 23%.

Anders Erlandsson of Ericsson ConsumerLab said: “On-demand viewing is increasingly popular, while broadcast viewing has remained as the most common way for people to watch TV. People want both broadcast and on-demand viewing to be available.” He added that television and video have not been negatively affected by the internet in the same way as print has, but we just watch television in many more ways than we did before.

“The increase in on-demand viewing is driven by freedom and simplicity,” he said. “With the advent of user-friendly set-top boxes such as Roku, the Boxee box and Apple TV — coupled with super-simple and affordable streaming services such as Netflix — the popularity and ubiquity of on-demand viewing is increasing rapidly.”

Social media usage combined with television viewing is an increasing phenomenon, particularly in the United States. Over 40% reported using social media while watching, and over 60% browsed the internet while watching television. To an extent, this is an extension of previous behaviours. Nearly 70% reported eating or talking to others while watching television, while 30% claimed to read or study while watching.

Television has been an integral part of people’s lives for decades, providing people with topics of conversation. Today, television is arguably more important than ever, and the discussion has been extended to wider social networks.

The emphasis for viewers has moved from “What is on now?” to “What do I feel like watching now?” and increasingly “Who else is watching this right now?”

Viewers are also willing to pay for high quality video. High definition video was important for 50% of respondents, while 30% said they were prepared to pay for it.

Interestingly, although advertising supports the majority of television viewing, over 40% of respondents said having no commercials was an important feature of their television experience, and over 25% said they were willing to pay for this.

People also indicated that they were interested in a more personalised television and video viewing experience, which appealed to 40%, while over 20% were prepared to pay for this.

Connected services, such as internet on television, video telephony, interactive television and apps on television scored comparatively low for importance and willingness to pay. Only around 12% thought that apps were an important feature of television, around the same percentage as for 3D TV, and only 8% thought that they would be prepared to pay for them.

“Consumers now expect television content to be personalised to a much higher degree,” explained Anders. “I think this is best explained by the global macro trend of individualisation — consumers expect the world to adapt to their needs.” He said that features such as web browsing, accessing apps and 3D are not yet big factors for consumers, “they will probably become standard features in time”.

Ericsson ConsumerLab research predicts that by 2020 there will be 50 billion connected devices globally, of which it forecasts more than 15 billion will be video enabled.

The Ericsson TV and Video Consumer Trend Report 2011 draws on quantitative research covering 13,000 interviews in Australia, Austria, Brazil, China, Germany, Netherlands, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, United Kingdom, United States and South Korea.