31m UK viewers prepare for a catch-up Christmas

10 December 2015

10 December 2015

On demandUK viewers won't be tied to the TV schedule this Christmas holiday, according to Ofcom research, which shows we're now using our TV gadgets more than any other major country.

Ofcom research suggests that 70% (31m) of UK adults will watch TV using free-to-air catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub this December, putting us ahead of all other major European countries and the USA, Japan and Australia.

TV viewers in the UK appear to be the most technologically-advanced of European nations, as the growing trend for time-shifted viewing offers an end to the traditional battle for the remote control this Christmas.

Online adults in the UK are the most likely to watch catch-up TV on a tablet (16%) and use an online service to watch TV or films (81%).

Graph---How-the-UK-leads-the-world-for-tech-savvy-TV

Despite these trends, traditional live TV remains the most popular way of tuning in, particularly on New Year's Eve when more than nine in ten viewers (11.4 million) watched live at midnight last year.

The findings are part of Ofcom's International Communications Market Report 2015, published today.

Overall, people in the UK 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 UK saw the greatest decline in traditional live TV viewing among comparator countries, decreasing by 4.9% from 2013 to 2014.

Graph---TV-viewing-figures-per-day

Connected TVs providing more viewing options

The UK is also a leader for viewing on connected TVs, with 42% of homes owning a TV connected to the internet - higher than any country sampled except Spain.

As a result, families gathering round for a film this Christmas are increasingly likely to turn to catch-up services like All 4 or Sky-on-Demand.

Seven in ten owners of the UK's connected TV owners are watching such content, while more than half (54%) are watching content via a subscription service such as Netflix or Amazon Instant Video.

DVD decline

These shifts are leading to the rapid decline of the DVD player. In every sampled country, a large proportion of people reported watching DVDs or Blu-Ray discs less this year (32% in the UK), while only a small proportion (8% in the UK) say they are doing so more.

These changes in viewing habits are also driven by an increase in the takeup of portable connected devices. More than half (54%) of UK adults now own a tablet, and two-thirds (67%) own a smartphone.

On-demand spending soars

Given UK's viewers' appetite for online content, revenue for this sector is rising rapidly. Consumers and advertisers in this country spent £908m on these services last year, up  44% from £631m in 2013, and from just £102m in 2009.

These figures remain small when compared to the overall £14bn generated by the TV industry in 2014, of which 45% was generated by pay-TV subscriptions.

Around six in ten UK households (59%) had a pay TV service by the end of 2014. Despite this, more than half (51%) of viewing is still to the five major, free-to-air, public-service channels.

James Thickett, Ofcom Director of Research, said: "UK 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."

Ofcom's International Communications Market Report is published annually to compare the availability, take-up and use of communications in the UK against 17 comparator countries. As well as TV and audio-visual services, the report also covers radio, telecoms, post, the internet and online content.