UK survey show families sit and watch four different programs

The fast facts takeaways from telecom regulator Ofcom’s Communications Market Report show the UK to be a nation of binge viewers, with 94% having digital TV, and watch broadcast TV 3.5 hours day, where 76% of adults have a smartphone and yet where we stubbornly continue to use analog radios.

But underlying this are some clear mistakes. We never take seriously anything that Broadcasters Audience Research Board (BARB) says because it deliberately promotes TV, and yet Ofcom has used its numbers.

The 3.5 hours a day of TV viewing actually includes anything watched using a DVR which was recorded in the last 7 days. So people who start every program 15 minutes late and speed through the adverts are including in what is a good news message for the broadcast advertising industry, but based on false assumptions. We would all like to know viewing numbers by age group of people who actually watch broadcast linear TV and BARB does its best to hide these numbers and in this report Ofcom colludes with it.

However Ofcom commissioned a separate survey on “The changing TV landscape,” some 63% used BBC iPlayer to watch on demand programming, as well as 40% using ITV player, 38% using YouTube, 31% using Netflix and so on.

The 63% number for iPlayer is partly because it has been around for so long, but we suspect also because it can be viewed on a TV set using YouView set tops, which are widespread in the UK and other digital players like Roku.

Although Digital Audio Broadcast radio was introduced in 2006, still only 57% of radio listeners have a DAB radio, and only 46% of radio listening hours are delivered on it, making analog radio the default 11 years on.

Other headline numbers are that 88% of households have the internet and there are 25.3 million fixed broadband connections with 10.8 million of them being superfast and the average speed being 36.2 Mbps. Ofcom defines superfast as speeds greater than 30 Mbps. 83% of adults have access to broadband if you include through a smartphone.

Well that’s not what Akamai says in its State of the Internet Report out in June, it cites 16.9 Mbps as the average UK broadband speed, about half the Ofcom number and puts the UK at 15th in its global league table. That’s quite a difference.

The Changing TV Landscape survey was conducted by Populus in April and May as an online survey with 2,356 interviews among adults aged 16+, and 505 interviews among 12-15 year olds.

It sensibly concludes that people really use broadcast TV for news and
to provide ’background noise’. On top of that 54% love the freedom of
watching TV on their tablet or smartphone and 7 out of 10 watch TV programs on demand specifically to avoid adverts.

And this is where the binge watching data comes from, with 35% of people in the UK saying they do it at least weekly and only 30% of people in the UK say they sit together with family members to watch the same TV program every day.

Some 31% go the other direction entirely, saying that at least once a week, members of their household sit together in the same room while watching different programs on different screens. This is a real problem for BARB, because if the TV is on and there are four people in the room it records that as 4 people watching TV, when it fact it may be none or just one.

And 45% say they watch programs by themselves every day. Finally 58% of people say they only prefer to watch big national events on live broadcast TV instead of on-demand because it’s good to know everyone is watching
at the same time and nearly half (45%) said the same for sports.

The Ofcom report is free and it’s really essential reading if you are in the UK, or even if you are not.