One in three people in Britain would apparently rather watch programmes on a tablet, smartphone or laptop screen than on a traditional television set. A survey by broadband comparison site broadbandchoices comes to the remarkable conclusion that by 2017 the ordinary television set will be replaced as the primary viewing device in most British homes, as broadband connections enable people view programmes on tablets and smartphones.
Dominic Baliszewski of broadbandchoices said: “It’s not surprising that the old fashioned television set is losing its crown as king of the living room. With so many different ways for people to view films and programmes over a broadband connection, modern devices such as tablets allow viewers far more flexibility to choose where and when they watch their favourite shows. We could see the ordinary TV set replaced in most homes as the primary viewing device in less than five years.”
The self-reported perception of respondents is that a quarter of them watch less programming on television than they did a decade ago. The study notes a wider generational shift in habits, as younger viewers are less inclined to sit in front of a television.
It cites research published by Ofcom that indicates that television viewing among those aged 25-35 in the United Kingdom fell from 3.5 to 3.3 hours per day from 2005 to 2011.
Now, a drop of twelve minutes a day may or may not be significant, given the inaccuracies inherent in current television viewing measurement methodologies, which incidentally changed over this period.
Nevertheless, there is a widespread public perception that traditional television viewing habits are evolving, despite evidence provided by the industry evidence that suggests it is remaining remarkably resilient to change.
The same broadbandchoices survey reported that one in five adults said they now watch online catch-up television at least once a week.
Again, that is significant, and consistent with usage figures reported for services like the BBC iPlayer. Yet it remains a small proportion of total television viewing.
There were 174 million requests for television programmes through BBC iPlayer in December 2012. Over 30% of them were from tablets and mobile devices. Over the year there were 2.32 billion requests for radio and television programmes, producing 36.5 billion minutes of viewing or listening. Interestingly, that works out about 15 minutes per request.
In comparison, BARB reports that individuals in the United Kingdom watched around 1,160 billion minutes of television over the year, an average of just over four hours a day each. That means that total BBC iPlayer usage, including both radio and television, was equivalent to around 3% of all television viewing.
The latest available cross-platform data from Nielsen indicates that among those in the United States aged 25-34, the group that watches most online video, they spent an average of 93 minutes a week watching online video, compared to 1,635 minutes a week watching television in the third quarter of 2012. That is equivalent to around 5% of their television viewing.
However, the availability of such on-demand viewing is highly valued by users, leading to an increased perception of its importance. By contrast, a lot of television viewing is a background or social activity for many people.
When offered the choice of a tablet or a smartphone instead of a television, a third of those questioned said they would rather have the former. Which is perhaps not surprising, as they are desirable multifunctional devices.
Most people already have a television and frankly could not imagine life without it. Some people do not have a television and claim that all their viewing is online, but these represent a relatively small minority, although they may be over represented in online forums.
Then again, few anticipated the speed of the shift from landlines to mobile phones, or that people would mainly use their mobile phones for things other than making or receiving calls.
The One Poll survey commissioned by broadbandchoices polled 2,000 people and 33% of respondents said they would rather keep an alternative device if given the choice between that and a traditional television set.