While most people still seem to watch television at the time of broadcast, which audience measurement suggests represents 84% of all television viewing, research from Kantar Media shows there are signs that this will soon change. Only just over half the adults it surveyed said that watching programmes at the time they are broadcast is now their preferred option.
The Kantar Media futurePROOF study, based on telephone interviews of around 2,000 people, weighted to be nationally representative of the United Kingdom, found that over half the adults said they have a digital video recorder in their home.
Among those with a digital video recorder or access to on-demand services, the research suggests that there is a hierarchy of viewing choices for people, with live television remaining the preferred viewing option for just 51%, followed by recording to watch later by 34% and viewing on demand at 10%.
Wait a minute. A nationally representative survey suggests that viewing television at the time of broadcast is the preferred option for only half of those with the option to watch later. That should be a wake-up call for broadcasters, who naturally tend to maintain the primacy of scheduled programming.
However, it seems consistent with the anecdotal evidence of many people with a digital video recorder and the experience of those that have been using them for many years.
Those that have a digital video recorder and have used on-demand television are already less likely to watch a series when it is broadcast. Only 38% of them said they would do so, compared to 52% who would watch a recording or 10% who would watch on-demand.
Those aged under 35 were also less likely to choose live television, at 40%, rather than 37% who would watch a time-shifted recording, or 17% who would watch on-demand.
Digital video recorders are seen as more convenient and reliable than on-demand viewing. 64% of those with digital video recorder said they feel more at ease setting their recorder rather than relying on on-demand services. 58% said they use a recorder so they can keep access to programmes for longer.
On-demand is seen as more of a catch-up facility, with 70% of on-demand users claiming that they only use on-demand services to catch up on programmes they have missed.
The availability of on-demand services on other screens is key to many, with 47% of on-demand users saying that they often use on-demand services to watch programmes when they are not in front of a television set.
Interestingly, the communications regulator Ofcom, citing the audience measurement organisation BARB, reckons that digital video recorder take-up reached 67% nationally in 2012, yet only 10% of all viewing was timeshifted, rising to 16% among those homes with a recorder.
According to BARB, 98% of all television viewing is within seven days of broadcast. Viewing within 8-28 days accounts for just 1.5% of total viewing, although for some genres such as drama, movies and children’s programming this rises to 15%, although such delayed viewing is currently not included in published viewing figures or channel share calculations.
So for a programme like Doctor Who with a BARB consolidated audience of 7.45 million people, only just over half of them watched at the time of transmission, with the rest appropriately enough time shifting. In this case around a fifth viewed on the same day as the broadcast, around a quarter watched within one to seven days, and an additional 5% watched within 8-28 days.
Importantly, user reported preferences for recording programmes are not necessarily reflected in actual behaviour. People may actually see more live television than they think. It is just that the programmes they really care about are likely to be either live, typically news, sport or entertainment shows, or considered choices, particularly in the case of narrative programmes, in which case they are increasingly likely to be recorded and recalled, like Doctor Who
Nevertheless, the Kanta Media futurePROOF research suggests: “there are strong pointers to a not-too-distant future where time-shifting is the default behaviour for most viewers, most of the time, and live viewing is mainly reserved for event TV.”