Video-on-demand viewing in 2020 will almost equal live and scheduled programming, and half of all viewing will be on a mobile screen. Meanwhile the average time spent searching for something to watch has increased to almost an hour a day. These are among the extraordinary conclusions of the eighth annual Ericsson ConsumerLab study.

The research report predicts that on-demand viewing will continue to grow, making up round 40% of total viewing in 2020, by which time half of all television and video viewing will take place on a mobile screen, including smartphones, tablets and laptops.

Among those aged 16-24, on-demand viewing already exceeds that for live or scheduled programming.

According to its consumer research, the amount of time spent watching television and video has reached an all-time high of 30 hours a week, including active viewing of scheduled linear TV, live and on-demand internet services, downloaded and recorded content, as well as discs.

“We can see that consumers are not only watching more video but also changing how and when they do so,” said Anders Erlandsson of Ericsson ConsumerLab. “This is also shown through the continued growth of mobile viewing, which has been a booming trend since 2010.”

Share of television and video viewing by screen 2010-2020. Source: Ericsson ConsumerLab TV and Media 2017 Study.

According to the Ericsson survey, the share of total television and viewing on a television screen has fallen from just over 50% to less than 40% in 2017. Yet Ericsson reports that 4K/UHD televisions are now present in over a fifth of all homes. Then again, Ericsson says that one in ten consumers are already using a virtual reality device and over a third of us will have them within three years.

Ericsson claims that approximately 70 percent of consumers now watch videos on a smartphone — double the amount from 2012 — making up a fifth of total television and video viewing, or an average of around six hours a week.

That sounds like an extraordinary figure, as does the prediction that watching on mobile screens could rise to half of all television and video viewing within three years.

Ericsson predicts that by 2020, only 1 in 10 consumers will be stuck watching television only on a traditional screen. Yet they will probably continue to watch more television than other groups.

Equally surprising is the finding that the average time spent searching for something to watch has increased to over 50 minutes a day, across both scheduled channels and video on demand services.

Apparently, 44% of respondents are unable to find anything to watch on scheduled television on a daily basis, while 24% are unable to find anything to watch on video on demand services.

If people supposedly want to watch to watch whatever they want, whenever they want, wherever they want, they seem to be having a hard time finding it. Except, of course, grazing for something to nibble on has become an activity in itself. Vague channel hopping has been overtaken by idly thumbing through feeds of fodder in the hope of finding something interesting.

Ericsson ConsumerLab has been tracking the shifts in television and video viewing. As ever, one needs to be cautious of self-reported surveys, but the Ericsson research has the benefit of providing comparable data over several years. The annual study, based on 20,000 online interviews in over a dozen countries, claims to be representative of more than a billion people.

TV and Media 2017: A consumer-driven future of media is available from the Ericsson web site.