The Communications Market Report: United Kingdom

The reinvention of the 1950s living room

Huge growth in take-up of smartphones and tablets is creating a nation of media multi-taskers, transforming the traditional living room of our parents and grandparents into a digital media hub.

Ofcom’s Communications Market Report 2013 reveals that people are still coming together to watch TV in the living room - 91% of UK adults view TV on the main set each week, up from 88% in 2002.

However, an increasing array of digital media are now vying for their attention. People are streaming videos, firing off instant messages and updating their social media status - all while watching more TV than before.

These activities are mostly carried out using smartphones, with over half of adults (51%) now owning these devices, almost double the proportion two years ago (27%).

At the same time, tablet ownership has more than doubled in the past year, rising from 11% of homes to 24%.  The average household now owns more than three types of internet enabled device, with one in five owning six or more.

The digital living room

Over half (53%) of UK adults are now media multi-tasking while watching TV on a weekly basis. Watching other content on a different device is one of these activities. 

A quarter (25%) are regularly ‘media meshing’ - doing something else but related to what they’re watching on TV. Examples of media meshing include talking on the phone (16%) or texting (17%) about what they’re watching, using social networks (11%) or ‘apps’ to communicate directly with programmes (3%). Younger people are most likely to use other media while watching TV (74%) with 44% media meshing.  

The impact of media meshing was seen during the 2013 Wimbledon Men’s tennis final, with 1.1 million people worldwide tweeting 2.6 million times using hashtags associated with the tennis final. Of these tweets, around 80% came from mobile devices.

The other major social phenomenon driven by digital devices is ‘media stacking’. Half (49%) of people use their smartphones and tablets for completely unrelated activities while watching TV every week - such as surfing the net (36%), social networking (22%) or online shopping (16%).

Women are significantly more likely to media multi-task weekly (56% compared to 51% of men), as are those with children at home (66%).

Television fights back

While the average household owns at least three types of internet-enabled device, the TV set in the living room retains its importance. People are increasingly reverting to having just one TV in their household - 41% of households in 2012 compared with 35% in 2002. In the first quarter of 2013, half (52%) of 5-15 year olds had a TV in their bedroom. This compares to seven in ten (69%) in 2007. And the proportion of UK adults viewing via the main TV set has increased from 88% in 2002 to 91% in 2012.

Live TV accounted for 90% of all viewing in 2012, with the average viewer watching just over four hours of TV a day - 15 minutes more than in 2008. Viewers are also enjoying bigger screens in the living room. ‘Jumbo’ TV sets (43”+) accounted for 15.8% of sales in the first quarter 2013, a 4.3 percentage point increase on 2012.

Tablets are also supporting the continued popularity of watching TV live, with more than half (57%) of tablet audiovisual content viewers watching live TV at least weekly via this device.

James Thickett, Ofcom’s Director of Research, said: “ Our research shows that increasingly families are gathering in the living room to watch TV just as they were in the 1950s - but now delivered on bigger, wider and more sophisticated sets. Unlike the 1950s family, however, they are also doing their own thing. They are tweeting about a TV show, surfing the net or watching different content altogether on a tablet.

“Just a few years ago, we would be talking about last night’s TV at work or at school. Now, we’re having those conversations live while watching TV - using social media, text and instant messaging.”

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 Glossary and Table of Figures 

 Cities Project - Analysys Mason report 

 Internet use and attitudes: 2013 Metrics Bulletin

Live TV accounted for 90% of all viewing in 2012, with the average viewer watching just over 4 hours daily

Online TV revenue in the UK has increased 12-fold in the last five years, from £21m in 2007 to £258m in 2012. Year on year, the total market grew by 40%.

Seven per cent of UK consumers had a Smart TV at the end of the March 2013. Of those 77% have connected it to the internet.

Total UK TV industry revenues increased by 0.8% year on year in 2012, reaching £12.3bn. This was driven by increases in subscriptions (up 0.9%) but a decline in TV advertising (down 2%).

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On average, 90% of the UK adult population tuned in to the radio each week in the 12 months to March 2013

Listening to the radio on digital devices has increased to 34.3% of total listening, a 5.1 percentage point increase on last year.

The proportion of radio listeners with a DAB radio set in the home grew to 44%.

Radio listening on a mobile phone has risen from 13% to 20% over the past year.

Total UK radio industry revenues reached £1.19bn in 2012, an increase of 2.8% year on year.

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80% of UK adults have access to the internet at home via a fixed or mobile broadband connection or via a mobile handset.

The average household now owns more than three types of internet enabled device, with one in five owning six or more.

Tablet ownership has more than doubled in the past year (from 11% of homes to 24%).

Laptop and desktop internet users spend at least 35 hours online each month.

A fifth of mobile internet users have bought goods or services from their phone.

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Lady on the phone

Superfast broadband (speeds of over 30 Mbit/s) is now available to almost three-quarters of UK premises

Just under a fifth (17.5%) of all fixed broadband connections were superfast at the end of March 2013

Total UK telecoms revenues decreased by 1.8% in 2012 to £38.8bn.

More than half (53%) of active mobile subscribers were on contracts at the end of 2012, up from 49% in 2011.

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Total mail revenues grew by 7% to £7.2bn in 2012.

Mail volumes fell 5.9% to 15.7 billion items in 2012, a 27.3% decline since 2007.

Almost two thirds (64%). of adults say that they are reliant on post as a form of communication.

Around one in ten (13%) use post to communicate with friends and family on a weekly basis.

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