TV's changing? Not so fast….

Generic smart TV

From new devices on which we view, to a whole range of new online services, a wave of innovation has swept across television in the past decade. But how much have your viewing habits actually changed?

Here is how my weekend looked. I spent much of it binge-viewing the second series of House of Cards, the Netflix production often seen as the symbol of how TV is changing. I watched it in various ways - on the TV via my cable company which has just added Netflix, via a games console where the streaming service is now an app, and on a tablet computer, which was the simplest most portable viewing method.

As a family, we sat down and watched a couple of episodes of the BBC comedy Outnumbered - not live but via the BBC iPlayer on the TV, another app provided by the cable company. We also watched a great documentary, Searching for Sugarman, on DVD via the games console - providing another opportunity for my wife to voice her frustration at the machine's undoubtedly awful user interface.

I also watched some YouTube videos explaining the functions of a camera I'm using and my son spent plenty of time looking at various online videos - like many teenagers that seems to be where he consumes most of his TV. We even watched a little bit of bog-standard live television, mostly news.

Now if you were to believe some media pundits, those kind of viewing habits are becoming commonplace, with online services and promiscuous use of every kind of device replacing linear television and tired old channels. But hold on a minute.

New figures published today seem to show that the mass of the viewing population is far more conservative than one might imagine. In 2013, the average UK viewer watched three hours and 52 minutes of linear television a day on a TV set, and just three minutes and 30 seconds on other devices such as tablets, smartphones and laptops.

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Viewing on devices other than TVs of video on demand services like ITV Player, Sky Go and the BBC iPlayer accounted for just 1.5% of overall TV consumption”

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Viewing on devices other than TVs of video on demand services like ITV Player, Sky Go and the BBC iPlayer accounted for just 1.5% of overall TV consumption. That was up from 1.2% in 2012, but it is still a minority pursuit

As for time-shifting programmes, while 59% of homes now own a digital TV recorder, even in these homes more than 80% of television is watched live. And despite the fact that technology allows us to shuttle through the ads, the number of TV adverts watched is up 10% over the last five years.

Now, the figures were released by Thinkbox, the marketing body for commercial television, so you might expect them to accentuate the positives about traditional ways of viewing.

But a similar message came from the media regulator Ofcom last summer when it reported that families were congregating around the big TV in the living room once more.

The major broadcasters should not however be complacent. Services like Netflix are proving there is an appetite for different ways of viewing television, and we still don't know whether the very different TV habits of 15 to 25 year olds will become commonplace.

What has not been transformed is the clunky interface on most televisions, which still makes it too much of an effort to do anything more than just sit back and watch what's on live. Recently, the boss of one major electronics firm told a private meeting that the living room really had not changed much since the 1970s and there was a big opportunity for anyone who could pull that off.

For now, though, we are still waiting for someone to "fast forward" the TV revolution.

Rory Cellan-Jones Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    I don't own a TV anymore because 99% of its output was rubbish: cooking, reality, celebrity, lack-of-talent shows. I catch up with the the occasional thing like Sherlock via iPlayer. Even stopped going to YouTube a lot less since they've started interrupting music tracks and programmes with adverts halfway through. Grrrr.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.


    All you people moaning about the license. Please can we try and get the facts correct. It's licence with a 'c'.

    Thank you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    Nearly all the TV I watch is live, because I'm a sports fan. Sports aren't the same if you already know the result, and I don't want to run the risk of accidentally finding out.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    We have also decided to do without Virgin Media and Sky. The apps on a smart TV are good enough or failing that the ROKU player is faster than the interface on a Tivo box and no subscription. Netflix tends to dominate our viewing experience or FREESAT for live TV. I hear this from along of my tech savy friends and colleagues so a little worrying for the mainstream TV providers.

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Maybe, instead of binge viewing House Of Cards, you could have worked on an obituary of Ian McNaught-Davis? There has been no coverage at all on the BBC of the death of this pioneer of computing broadcasting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    I hardly ever watch TV because most of it is aimed squarely at the female audience. If I do, it's generally ITV4, Dave, ITV 3 or the History channel

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    I listen to the radio more than I watch TV. I'm happy to pay the license fee, however, because it's unbeatable value for money and far better than Murdochracy. That said, I mostly watch BBC foreign coverage to find out what the Govt wants me to think and I supplement it with the biased-but-in-a-different-way Al Jazeera. I certainly don't trust the British corporate media to inform me impartially.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.


    Exactly! The problem with the BBC tax is you have no choice if you want to watch Live TV

    You could spend your entire life not accessing a SINGLE BBC product yet still have to pay £145 for the privilege of watching other broadcasters productions

    Trouble is the BBC knows that if they give the people that choice it'll more than likely fold. No more golden handshakes for the execs'

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    The biggest real change is the ability to time shift programmes and skip over the BLASTED ADVERTS

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    @31 Little_Old_Me

    why should the rest of pay for you to slag the BBC off on a website we PAY FOR

    A bit gobbledegook but I get it. I was going to say no one is forcing you to pay TV license but.

    99%+ of websites don't charge, are unlimited. BBC charges you get 400 letters hahaha !

    I come to places like this to balance out the "Guardian" brain washing propaganda.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.


    You are mistaken. Unless you watch what is considered LIVE broadcast you don't require a TV license. It even states this on the TV Licensing website, unless they recently closed that loophole.

    The problem is proving it when, sorry if, they come knocking...

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.


    "Unless I am mistaken"

    I'm afraid you are mistaken my friend.

    "You need to be covered by a valid TV Licence if you watch or record TV as it's being broadcast."

    On demand is not live broadcast I'm afraid, thus I pay no tax. Boom!!

    "why should the rest of pay for you to slag the BBC off on a website we PAY FOR"

    Well, I guess that makes you, and those paying for it, mugs :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    I've stopped watching the BBC altogether apart from local news perhaps once a day and Top Gear once a week when it's on.

    F1 - slashed by 50%. MotoGP - sold to BT Sport.

    BBC Drama - aimed at women.

    Other channels don't provide much of an alternative either.

    2 weekends ago I watched the entire Bathurst 12hr weekend live online LEGALLY for FREE - that is the future of motosport coverage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    I've had a 50" flatscreen tv for a year or 2 now, still yet to connect an aerial. "live TV" has little appeal to me. Anything I watch is through streaming services. Basically, what I want when I want it. With todays media technology available then this is increasingly becoming the norm. Additionally, the lack of abhorrent adverts makes for enjoyable viewing!

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    My changing habbit is easy to see. I am watching less and less of it, as the BBC, ITV and C4 are all adopting more and more cheap to make drivel-telly for the braindead generation, which seems to be mainly dancing shows with z-list "celebs" and naff singing shows.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    The younger generation don't watch live TV and don't pay the licence fee. They watch catch-up services, streaming services and download anything they can't watch for free from pirate torrent sites.

    They are the future and that is what is gong to happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    I thought about my TV habits, and realised I never watched live new TV. So dumped the licence at the next renewable date. I imagined I might use Netflicks or similar. Turns out I do not even bother with catchup TV, do not miss TV at all. Even removed TV from room into storage. Saves a fortune too, on power and fees. Plenty of free gaming to fill more free time than available day or evening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    @27 Donkzilla
    "Live" doesn't have the same meaning anymore. You're using an outdated measure.

    Correct but the BBC need to alter the figures to justify the TV license - so viewing repeats is considered "Live".

    Self justification propaganda.

    Why promote a GM potato and then only talk to Scientists & Campaigners - what about the majority who are affected - the public & farmers ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    26.Global Yawning

    Unless I am mistaken, if you access TV by any means in the UK (internet catch up or otherwise) you must have a TV license.....

    ....and rightly so - why should the rest of pay for you to slag the BBC off on a website we PAY FOR.....


  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    #28 Thats something at least. One of my major bugbears is that the BBC never repeat anything really good (Rome, Spooks, Ashes to Ashes, Life on Mars etc) & instead flog it off to satellite or limit it to a DVD release. I have to pay twice to see something my licence fee funded originally yet they fill up BBC1 & 2 with endless repeats of open all hours & porridge.


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