The Media in Figures: TV viewing, UK versus the rest of Europe and beyond

SAYS the broadcasting regulators, Ofcom: “TV viewers in the UK appear to be the most technologically-advanced of European nations, as the growing trend for time-shifted viewing offers an end to the traditional battle for the remote control this Christmas.”

Ofcom research – part of its International Communications Market Report 2015 – suggests that 70 per cent (31million) of UK adults will watch TV using free-to-air catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub this December, putting us ahead of all other major European countries and the USA, Japan and Australia.

Other findings:

* Online, adults in the UK are the most likely to watch catch-up TV on a tablet (16 per cent) and use an online service to watch TV or films (81 per cent).

* Despite these trends, traditional live TV remains the most popular way of tuning in, particularly on New Year’s Eve when more than nine in ten viewers (11.4 million) watched live at midnight last year.

* Overall, people in the UK are watching 3 hours 40 minutes of TV per day, just below the average among sampled countries of 3 hours 43 minutes. Americans watch the most TV overall (4 hours 42 minutes), while the Swedish watch the least (2 hours 33 minutes).

* The UK saw the greatest decline in traditional live TV viewing among comparator countries, decreasing by 4.9 per cent from 2013 to 2014.

* The UK is also a leader for viewing on connected TVs, with 42 per cent of homes owning a TV connected to the internet – higher than any country sampled except Spain.

* As a result, families gathering round for a film this Christmas are increasingly likely to turn to catch-up services like All 4 or Sky-on-Demand. Seven in ten owners of the UK’s connected TV owners are watching such content, while more than half (54 per cent) are watching content via a subscription service such as Netflix or Amazon Instant Video.

* These shifts are leading to the rapid decline of the DVD player. In every sampled country, a large proportion of people reported watching DVDs or Blu-Ray discs less this year (32 per cent in the UK), while only a small proportion (eight per cent in the UK) say they are doing so more.

* These changes in viewing habits are also driven by an increase in the takeup of portable connected devices. More than half (54 per cent) of UK adults now own a tablet, and two-thirds (67 per cent) own a smartphone.

* Given UK’s viewers’ appetite for online content, revenue for this sector is rising rapidly. Consumers and advertisers in this country spent £908m on these services last year, up  44 per cent from £631m in 2013, and from just £102m in 2009.

* These figures remain small when compared to the overall £14bn generated by the TV industry in 2014, of which 45 per cent was generated by pay-TV subscriptions.

* Around six in ten UK households (59 per cent) had a pay TV service by the end of 2014. Despite this, more than half (51 per cent) of viewing is still to the five major, free-to-air, public-service channels.

Source: Ofcom, International Communications Market Report 2015, published December 10 2015.