Watching two programmes at once? You're 'programme packing'

Head of Communications and Policy, TV Licensing

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Sian Healey, Head of Communications and Policy for TV Licensing looks at why some sport fans are ‘programme packing’ and ‘screen stacking’ live TV on up to three devices at once. 

Elvis Presley famously had a TV room with a trio of televisions mounted side-by-side on a wall at his Graceland home so he could watch three NFL American football games at once. He reportedly pinched the idea from President Lyndon Johnson who prudently kept up to date with current events with television sets for each of the major US news networks.  It seems Elvis and Lyndon may have been ahead of their time. 

Modern day viewers are also taking advantage of technology to watch two or more live programmes at the same time.

New research conducted by YouGov for TV Licensing shows nearly one in five men (18 per cent) and over one in 10 women (11 per cent) have watched two live TV programmes simultaneously in the past 12 months. Not only that, but three per cent of prolific programme packers confessed to have watched up to three programmes at the same time.

Programme packing, the art of watching multiple live TV programmes simultaneously on two or more electronic devices, is being propelled by unmissable live television.

In keeping with Elvis’s football obsession, sport is the main driver of ‘programme packing’ here in the UK with over a third of viewers (38 per cent) watching live sport on their TV, whilst watching another live programme on a second device. Half of those were tuned into two concurrent sporting events, viewing one on a supplementary device such as a laptop, phone or tablet.

A massive summer of sport, which included the 2014 FIFA World Cup, tennis from Wimbledon, the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the Tour de France, caused schedule clashes which had technology rich and time poor people reaching for TV remote controls, tablets, laptops and smartphones so they wouldn’t miss a second of the live sporting action.

Despite the majority of viewers watching live TV on a traditional TV set, other devices are becoming more widely available in living rooms across the country. According to research in Ofcom’s Communications Market Report  released last week, laptop computers are the most popular internet-enabled device in UK households (63 per cent), followed very closely by smartphones (61 per cent). There has also been a rapid rise in tablet ownership, doubling since last year to 44 per cent of households.

The good news for licence fee payers is a licence covers you to watch live TV on an unlimited number of devices in the home, including your laptop, tablet and mobile phone and allows you to watch or record live TV on multiple channels at the same time.

Although the thought of watching three screens at once like Elvis may leave some people feeling ‘all shook up’, our research shows (even to those with ‘suspicious minds’) that programme packing and screen-stacking, especially amongst sport lovers, is here to stay.

Sian Healey is Head of Communications and Policy, TV Licensing 



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