TV sets continue to dominate as UK viewers stay loyal to live

Joseph O’Halloran| 08 December 2014

There may indeed be many ways to watch TV, but UK viewers are remaining steadfast to watching TV as it is broadcast.

According to research carried out by IpsosMediaCT on behalf of Thinkbox, the trade association representing UK commercial TV companies, 88% of TV in the UK continues to be watched live, as it is broadcast. And despite the growing success of online subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) services such as Netflix and Amazon, the research also found that people in the UK actually underestimate how much live TV they watch: asked what proportion of their TV viewing they thought was live, on average people claimed 57%.

Overall, 98.2% of TV viewing was found to take place on a TV set, and the TV Nation research found that 55% of the UK claim only ever to watch TV on a TV set, despite the prevalence of new screens such as tablets. Asked which type of screen gave the best viewing experience, the sample showed that TV set dominated with 88%. Next were laptops (6%), then desktop computers (3%), then tablets and smartphones (both with 2%).

The TV Nation report also revealed the reasons why people choose live TV. They are: to watch live action as it happens (28%); to discover programmes and continue watching them (23%); wanting to watch live to create a TV ‘event’ (19%); watching together with friends or family (17%); to watch shows they have been looking forward to as soon as possible (17%).

But not overlooking alternative viewing, the research also revealed that in the UK tablets are set to overtake laptops as the favourite second screen. The TV Nation 2012 report found that only 5% of the UK claimed to watch on tablets and 22% on laptops; two years later these figures are 17% and 23% respectively.

Looking at why people connect to a second screen, the research found that 41% did so to catch up with missed programmes. Next was to watch something when others were in the room watching something else (31%); watching in rooms where there’s no TV set (25%); watching shows that viewers did not have access to on their TV set (23%); for entertainment when travelling (21%).

“This research explains how TV is changing but also, importantly, how the fundamentals remain the same,” said Nicole Greenfield-Smith, research controller at Thinkbox, commenting on the company’s reserch. “It shows how the TV set in the living room remains at the centre of our viewing and the human desire to live in the moment, to belong and to share experiences is reflected in the continuing dominance of live TV. People are also relishing watching TV in new ways, on-demand and on new devices, as an additional activity not as a substitute. It is a testament to the attraction of live TV that the main reason to watch TV on other screens is to catch up with a missed show.'”


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