Vive la télévision!

Every year, here at Thinkbox HQ, we like to do at least one blog that features a single graph telling a clear, compelling story about TV. Yes, I know we really shouldn’t spoil you like this but we still have the generous, giving spirit of Christmas flowing through our veins along with the last dregs of the mulled wine and the final green triangle.

This year we thought we’d do it early, partly in light of this story about online TV viewing via laptops, PCs and tablets appearing to ‘plateau’ (you can see our response below the piece – it may be growing more slowly on those devices, but then you’d expect it to, given they are something of a compromise – for in-home viewing at least -  as we wait for internet-connected TVs to truly arrive).

Anyway, here is the graph:


There. Pretty obvious isn’t it?

In case it isn’t, what this thing of graphical beauty shows is that as ownership of digital TV recorders has reached around half the households in the UK, the amount of their viewing people actually time-shift has remained remarkably stable.

Of the two lines on the graph, it is the red one that is the most significant. It represents the amount of time-shifting in homes that own a DTR. From the time of the earliest early adopters to now, when it is a mainstream technology, households with DTRs have on average watched about 15% of their TV time-shifted.

As more households get DTRs (the yellow line that is gradually rising towards its red cousin) and the longer people own them, we might have expected this to creep up a bit, maybe to 20%. But the dust seems to have settled and this is about the level we now expect time-shifted viewing to stay at. It would take something pretty dramatic and unforeseen to be otherwise.

And let’s not forget, while I’m here, that in that 15% of TV that is currently time-shifted, around 30% of it is still watched as though it is live (i.e. the ad breaks are watched at normal speed because people don’t fast-forward them). Also, when you get a digital recorder you watch more TV than you did before with the net result being (once you’ve taken into account any time-shifting) that you watch more ads at normal speed than before you had it (about 3%).

It is also worth pointing out, if I can beg a little more of your attention, that there are two very different attitudes to time-shifting which both go to make up the 15% total: deliberately choosing to record a programme to watch at another time and live pause. The latter time-shifts programmes for seconds or minutes, the former for hours or days. Each accounts for about 50% of total time-shifting.  Not surprising then that nearly half of the time-shifted 15% is viewed on the same day as the live broadcast (VOSDAL).

Anyway, I am getting carried away with the stats, researcher at heart that I am. Why have I shown you this graph? Because amid all the debate about how much people are doing this or that with regards to TV, we shouldn’t lose sight of human behaviour, which hasn’t really changed all that much. We prefer to watch most of our TV on the nice big TV set we’ve invested in, with other people physically present and at the same time as the rest of the world – ideally as it is broadcast, so we don’t miss out. The rest (about 15-20%) is with newer convenient technologies. Together these are helping people to watch more TV overall.

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