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The question of how we watch TV has been a prevailing theme in recent years as new ways to watch and new ways to enhance the TV experience have emerged.
The boring answer is that we pretty much watch it the same way we always have; the core experience of TV has not changed. We still prefer to watch TV on the main TV set as it is broadcast and with other people. This is the crux of how TV is consumed and explains why we’re watching a record amount of linear TV. Despite the many technological developments, nothing betters the live broadcast experience.
However, the overall TV experience is being enriched. For instance, we weren’t previously able to watch TV out of the home very conveniently; we can now. Until recent years, it was a bit of a chore to record or catch-up with something we missed; now it is as intuitive as we can imagine.
In this section we’ll give an overview of the technological developments – and the key numbers behind them – that are increasing our enjoyment of TV.
Linear TV channels remain as popular as ever and are important anchors as the TV landscape becomes more complicated. With more and more ways to watch and interact with TV, we need guides and navigators we trust to cut through the choice. TV without channels would be like a restaurant without a menu; sounds good, but only if you always know what you want. As Deloitte puts it in its ‘Technology, Media & Telecommunications Predictions 2012’, ‘choice is cherished, but choosing is a chore’.
2012 is the year when TV in the UK becomes 100% digital following analogue switch-off. Digital penetration in the UK is currently at 97% of homes, with over 25 million households having digital TV (see diagram on the right).
There are three ways viewers receive digital broadcast TV:
- Digital Terrestrial TV (DTT), which is predominantly Freeview. BT Vision also uses DTT for delivery of linear TV but is a hybrid box which uses broadband for its TV on-demand services.
- Digital Satellite TV (DSat) mostly Sky subscriptions but also includes Freesat.
- Digital Cable TV (DCab) primarily from Virgin Media but also with TalkTalk as a smaller player.
Homes are now more likely than ever to have additional TV sets. Recent figures from BARB indicate that 60% of homes now have more than one TV set and over 10% of homes have at least four. And, just as the number of sets is increasing, so is the screen size. In recent years the average screen size for a TV set has been increasing by an inch a year and 30% of TV sets are now over 40” in size, according to BARB.
It is also possible to watch linear TV streamed via the web as simulcasts. These are available online for the following channels: ITV1, ITV2, ITV3, ITV4, BBC One, BBC Two, BBC Three, BBC Four, BBC News, BBC Parliament, CBBC and CBeebies.
High Definition TV (HDTV)
According to Ofcom, 70% of the UK has an HD-ready TV set and 43% of them are now enjoying HD services. HDTV services offer a cinematic experience in the comfort of your own home and have helped further magnetise viewing to the living room.
There are now 60 HD channels on the Sky platform, with 4.1 million (39%) of Sky’s 10.5 million customers watching in HD. And there are 2.25 million (60%) of Virgin Media’s 3.8 million customers also watching in HD.
Digital TV Recorders (DTRs)
According to BARB, half of UK households now own a digital TV recorder, such as Sky+, Freeview+ or TiVo. Time-shifted viewing represents just 9.4% of total UK viewing, and 15% in homes that own a DTR.
This underlines our overwhelming preference for the live TV experience. People find that DTRs enhance their viewing experience considerably as they watch about 15% more TV when they acquire one and say that they enjoy TV a lot more. DTRs enable people to watch more of what they want to watch at a time that suits them and they enjoy this additional control.
DTRs can also create or increase loyalty to a series as viewers can series-link a programme and so ensure they don’t miss a single episode. If viewers do miss the original broadcast, they want to catch up as soon as possible. 83.2% of time-shifted viewing is watched within seven days of recording (half of which is watched on the same day as the broadcast); the remaining 16.8% that is watched after seven days is not included in BARB figures and is therefore wholly free to advertisers.
Viewers who have 3D really enjoy it. 3D is broadcast across Sky’s existing HD infrastructure and is available via the current generation of Sky+ HD set-top boxes. It is also compatible with all 3D Ready TVs in the UK and Ireland, including all models from Sony, Samsung, LG and Panasonic. Sky 3D is currently an opt-in service at no extra cost to the consumer – provided you have one of the new boxes and are a Sky World subscriber with the HD pack – and of course a 3D set. The BBC has said that some of its coverage of the Olympics this summer will also be available in 3D and this will help boost demand for 3D sets.
TV on-demand (TVoD)
As linear TV continues to thrive, around it a new world of on-demand TV services has emerged to meet our desire to watch TV with more convenience and flexibility. The early days of on-demand TV, served mainly by VHS recorders or box sets, seem a long time ago. The modern on-demand world is fast developing and complex, with new platforms and services appearing all the time.
TVoD has been the catalyst for new devices becoming TV devices. Any device that can connect to the internet can access an array of TVoD services, such as tablets, laptops, smartphones, and games consoles. In fact, games consoles which have always sat next to and linked to the main TV set in the living room are becoming entertainment hubs due to the wealth of on-demand services they provide (as well the ability of some to play Blu-ray and DVD).
To try and make sense of this expanding on-demand world and the choices available, here is an overview of which on-demand services the main platforms have:
It is important to remember that TV watched on screens other than the TV set is additional viewing to anything currently measured by BARB, so watching TV on a mobile device presents a whole new environment for broadcasters to populate. Not only are broadcasters enabling viewers to get the quality, premium TV they want across numerous platforms and on a variety of devices, they are also helping advertisers follow this relationship in all sorts of ways; from new clickable pre-roll formats to the gamification of programmes.
With the wealth of ways to access TVoD services people are watching TVoD in increasing amounts, primarily to catch-up with shows they have missed so they can stay in touch with the broadcast schedule most people are sharing. However it is still a relatively small percentage of overall TV viewing.
BARB’s twice yearly snapshot of TV viewing tells us 15% of the UK watch via other devices each week and 25% each month. The figures for 15-34s are approximately double these. Overall, other devices add an incremental 1.5% to TV viewing, but nearly 3% for 15-34s. Other sources such as UKOM and IPA Touchpoints seem to support these estimates.
However broadcasters can give us actual data directly and their numbers show the recent rapid growth:
BBC iPlayer: 1.449 billion views in 2011, a 28% increase on 2010
4oD: 427 million views in 2011, a 16% increase on 2010
ITV Player: 376 million views in 2011, a 44% increase on 2010
Sky Go: 1.5 million unique users per month (launched in July 2011)
Virgin Media: 1.004 billion views in 2011, a 14% increase on 2010
Connected TVs were the talk of the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas; the TV is fast becoming the most intelligent piece of technology in the home. Currently 4% of UK households own an internet-connected TV, according to Ofcom.
The connected TV market is dominated by Samsung, Panasonic, LG and Sony. However, each manufacturer uses a different technology: Samsung has Smart Hub, Panasonic has Smart Viera, LG has Netcast, and Sony has Bravia Internet TV. This lack of standardisation makes things more complicated for the viewer and may hold back the growth of these types of TVs unless there can be collaboration across the four of them.
So if you want to access the internet on your TV, connected TVs are an option. However, at the moment, games consoles – which effectively make TVs into connected TVs – offer more TV options, as the chart on the left shows. Penetration of games consoles has steadily increased in the UK from 34% in 2008 to 54% in 2011 (an increase of 59% in 3 years, according to IPA Touchpoints and Ofcom data). Though you can get BBC iPlayer and Demand Five on a connected TV, you can get both these plus more via a games console – and a games console is a great deal less expensive.
The main benefit of connected TVs, is that they can access theoretically limitless pools of content on-demand.
However there is another potential benefit; the return path they potentially offer. This could eventually lead to an additional economic model for commercial TV based more on the transactional model found in e-commerce. However Thinkbox’s Tellyporting research (conducted by Decipher), found that people preferred to respond directly to TV ads on an internet-connected companion device (such as a smartphone, laptop or tablet). This included placing advertised items directly on their online shopping list. It seems you don’t need a connected TV to respond immediately to an ad, as the growing amount of 2-screening shows.
YouView is the joint partnership between the BBC, ITV, BT, Channel 4, TalkTalk, Arqiva and Channel 5. It is due to launch later in 2012 and will bring the plug-in-and-watch simplicity of digital terrestrial television alongside many of the UK’s leading catch-up and video on-demand services. For those who want more, there will be a choice of on-demand and pay TV, including films, sports and US drama. There will also be a selection of apps as YouView is being designed as an open environment so that device manufacturers, content providers and application developers can participate in the YouView ecosystem.
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