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Time-shifting plateaus but multi-platform on-demand boosts UK TV viewing

The average UK viewer watched four hours, four minutes of TV a day in 2012, with on-demand services from TV sets, tablets, smartphones and laptops bolstering viewing, according to research from Thinkbox.

The study from the UK's marketing body for commercial TV in the UK — whose shareholders include Channel 4, ITV, Sky Media, Turner Media Innovations and UKTV — also revealed linear TV viewing remained just above four hours a day for the third consecutive year. This amounted to 27 minutes more linear TV a day than ten years ago. In addition, 89.9% of linear TV in 2012 was watched live, as it was broadcast, compared with 90.3% in 2011.

Despite the fears of adverse effects due to the London Olympics, the independent TV sector held up well in 2012 with commercial TV accounting for two-thirds linear viewing, at a similar level to 2011.

UK viewers also watched an average of three minutes of TV a day, mostly on-demand but some live streams, on non-TV set devices via established services such as ITV Player, Sky Go, 4oD and BBC iPlayer, and new services like Dave On-demand. Yet Thinkbox cautioned that balancing this growth was the increasing availability of on-demand services to TV sets, which could limit viewing on other devices.

In addition, the survey also observed that time-shifted TV viewing may be plateauing. Just over half of UK households now own a DTR, and in these homes 84.4% of linear TV was watched live compared with 84.7% in 2011, with 81% of all time-shifted viewing watched within seven days of recording and just under half (47%) seen within 24 hours of it being recorded. Growth in TV that is recorded and played back is slowing down. In 2010, 7.6% was time-shifted; in 2011 9.4% was time-shifted; and in 2012 10.1% was time-shifted.

Once all households have the ability to digitally record TV programmes, Thinkbox expects the average level of recorded and playback TV viewing to settle at around 15% of total linear viewing, as it has in those households that do currently own DTRs. However, in the same period, Thinkbox expects on-demand TV will increase as a proportion of the time-shifted total. In addition it predicts that the rise of connected TVs will see non-TV set on-demand viewing move to the bigger screen.

Examining the commercial effect of the new TV environment, Thinkbox calculated that TV ad impacts during 2012 were the same as the level set in 2011, and have grown by 44% over the last ten years to a record high. The average viewer watched 47 ads a day during 2012. Collectively the UK watched an average of 2.7 billion ads a day in 2012.

Commenting on the research, Lindsey Clay, Thinkbox's managing director, said: "Linear TV is the bedrock of how we watch TV and that is not going to change. Its continued strength underlines viewers' preference for watching TV as it is broadcast and on a TV set. Viewing via personal devices, which we have been able to estimate for the first time, is in comparison relatively small, but it is growing rapidly and helping TV as a whole to expand. This is great for viewers who can watch what they want, when they want; and great for advertisers for whom TV - the biggest digital medium - is expanding."

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