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

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 249.

    We've learned the hard way not to buy new technology until it is mature. 1st generation digital was obsolete by the time they finished the roll-out! Advice about upgrading aerials was nonsense: the reality was they were transmitting digital on reduced power for many years.

    After all that, I did enjoy a few months digital viewing with a loft aerial, until 4G knocked out one of the multiplexes.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 248.

    My TV has masses of smart functions all of which could be done far more easily on a laptop/pc and the results streamed to the TV.
    And yet the Electronic Program Guide lacks even the most basic of TV features - a program reminder function. How bizarre is that?

  • rate this
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    Comment number 247.

    I don't have a TV so I am not affected.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 246.

    Traditional TVs are what people want to watch, despite all the gadgets around. Putting TV onto the web, as Ofcom are considering, is a non-starter too. All the disruptions of recent storms, power cuts, flooding, etc have led to communications failures - and the delivery of web-based services is not robust enough. How would we get emergency messages via a dead web connection? Think again, Ofcom.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 245.

    I watch a lot of live TV, there's something strangely immediate about watching the "here and now" or tripping across something good as you surf the channels.
    My smart TV does give instant access to catch up and Lovefilm which I use, but only when I REALLY want to watch something as opposed to the more casual way of sitting down and watching whats on or timing your day to watch Benidorm.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 244.

    I got a Humax freesat box over christmas and the interface is really good. It has a search feature, iplayer, youtube etc from the box and a recording function that actually managers to record the whole programme. I personally don't watch a huge amount of tv, it tends to just be on in the background while I'm doing something else. I do watch movies on Lovefilm through my PS3 though.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 243.

    I don't know when I last watched live TV. I record programmes I am interested in and, at a time of my convenience, I choose which one I want to watch. The only problem is sifting through the garbage on all the hundreds of available channels (on BT Vision) to find the worthwhile items.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 242.

    About 50/50 live/recorded here as a family although my own usage (usually an hr before bed) is about 95% recorded.

    Where there is a choice, I encourage using the tv signals (living room tv, PCs have tv cards + we have mythtv for recording) over the Internet as, with our bandwidth, one video stream can really slow things down for anyone else wanting the Internet.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 241.

    I'd like to add: I don't know how these stats are being created, as no one I know really watches much, or any, live TV. (I'm in my twenties) Is there a 'class' separation with television watching habits? By household income, age or tech-savvy, I wonder? On-demand and whatnot does require a little more thought than simply switching on the TV.

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    Comment number 240.

    My parents stopped paying the TV license as I was coming to the end of Primary school, fifteen years ago or so. I know they watch a fair bit of catch up TV, through a laptop connected via HDMI. I will watch panel shows and some of the excellent BBC science or astronomy programming on the iPlayer. Movies, I'm half-ashamed to say I pirate! But I often go to the cinema to catch new releases.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 239.

    I gave up watching BBC news some while ago. Al Jazeera is much more comprehensive. I gave up evenings when BBC tried to match the so-called talent and reality trash on the other channels. Currently E4 and 5USA are my channels of choice.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 238.

    @54 Yoda
    You need a TV licence to watch (or record) anything that is being show 'live' on TV whether it is on a TV or other device. If you only watch things taken later (like a catch-up option) then you DON'T need a licence. You'll probably have fun trying to get the licensing people to admit you don't have a box and they WILL check but it is possible.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 237.

    The report reads "In 2013, the average UK viewer watched three hours and 52 minutes of linear television a day".

    Done sums and this means that a person living for 75 years spends 12 years of their life watching telly.

    Whether this is on a tablet, phone or telly, for catch up or real time, does not matter.

    12 YEARS OF EACH LIFE WATCHING TELLY!!!. What a horrendous terrifying statistic.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 236.

    The trouble with television is that now there is too much rubbish and repeats. How often can you watch Top Gear? I may be a petrolhead, but I find once is usually enough. The 'Freeview' channels are mostly repeats or American (or both!) but you never know what is on where unless you are a dedicated channel hopper. I've almost given up watching it.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 235.

    I agree with most of the top comments on here. I haven't had a tv for 6 years, I can't stand the constant deluge of adverts. The quality of programming is appalling and seem to treat everybody as if they are aged 3. We tend to buy dvds if we watch anything and then on the desktop for which we have a large monitor. There is plenty else to do. Don't bother with youtube since ads either.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 234.

    The saddest failure of TV recently has been Horizon. I used to watch every episode but recently I've been struggling to find one per series which I'm interested in. All the science has been taken out and been replaced decent production values and annoying presenters that appeal to the masses.

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    Comment number 233.

    If the big overall change in viewing habits hasn’t happened just yet, it’s surely just around the corner.

    As a family we changed over not so long ago, and our viewing pattern this past weekend was very similar to Rory’s, including the binge-viewing of House of Cards! Of course the kids pretty much switched off conventional TV ages ago; we're now following.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 232.

    I used to download pretty much everything. Just got a Tivo box and that has Netflix on it which is pretty good for the HD streaming. Have started using that and paying full whack for it, no problem at all with paying a fair price for a proper modern service - it was the initial attempts to bully and preserve archaic business practices with DRM, law claims and customer punishing decision I hated.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 231.

    I download or stream most of my TV these days. I put the news on occasionally but all channels are pretty hopeless at that now. The occasional TV series or quiz goes on the PVR.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 230.

    @ 228

    That made me laugh. Thank you. It would not have been possible to exchange views this way on a TV.

 

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