Ofcom: U.K. Leads the World for ‘Hi-Tech TV Viewing’


LONDON: Ofcom's latest International Communications Market Report shows that U.K. viewers are using more hi-tech TV gadgets than any other major country, though traditional live TV still remains the most popular way of tuning in.

Ofcom research suggests that 70 percent of U.K. adults (31 million) will watch TV using free-to-air catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub this month, putting the U.K. ahead of all other major European countries and the U.S., Japan and Australia. Online adults in the U.K. are the most likely to watch catch-up TV on a tablet (16 percent) and use an online service to watch TV or films (81 percent).

Overall, people in the U.K. are watching 3 hours 40 minutes of TV per day, just below the average among sampled countries of 3 hours 43 minutes. Americans watch the most TV overall (4 hours 42 minutes), while the Swedish watch the least (2 hours 33 minutes). The U.K. did see the greatest decline in traditional live TV viewing among comparator countries, decreasing by 4.9 percent from 2013 to 2014.

The U.K. is also a leader for viewing on connected TVs, with 42 percent of homes owning a TV connected to the internet—higher than any country sampled, except Spain. Seven in ten of the U.K.'s connected TV owners are watching content on catch-up services, while more than half (54 percent) are watching content via a subscription service such as Netflix or Amazon Video Prime.

Revenue for online content is rising rapidly in the U.K. Consumers and advertisers in this country spent £908 million ($1.4 billion) on these services last year, up 44 percent from 2013, and from just £102 million ($155 million) in 2009. These figures remain small when compared to the overall £14 billion ($21 billion) generated by the TV industry in 2014, of which 45 percent was generated by pay-TV subscriptions. Around six in ten U.K. households (59 percent) had a pay-TV service by the end of 2014. Despite this, more than half (51 percent) of viewing is still on the five major free-to-air, public-service channels.

James Thickett, Ofcom's director of research, said: "U.K. viewers won't be tied to the TV schedule this Christmas.

"More than anywhere else, we're watching TV and films at a time that suits us, on a range of devices, in and out of the home. So this year, more people can fit their festive TV viewing around opening presents and carving the turkey."