The UK regulator, Ofcom, has released international comparison data showing that the UK witnessed the highest average increase in TV watching during 2008 across 11 major economies, up by 3.2% to 3.8 hours a day. Ofcom also noted that the UK remained the country with the highest proportion of households with digital TV on their main set, at 88%.
It has generally been assumed that TV viewing is a counter-cyclical activity, because in a recession, consumers tend to cut down on going out and are therefore more likely to stay at home watching TV. However, the recession only began half-way through 2008, and although it was deeper in the UK than most other economies, this may not tell the whole story.
Ofcom’s second data-point suggests an additional factor: as digital TV penetration has increased in the UK, so has penetration of digital video recorders (DVRs) – and owners of DVRs watch more TV. Evidence from BSkyB’s Skyview panel suggests that users of DVRs watch in the region of 17% more television than their ‘linear’ counterparts.
Farncombe’s calculations (based on Ofcom’s quarterly digital TV reports), show that the number of DVRs in the UK (excluding Freesat) increased by 60% in 2008, putting DVRs in nearly a third of UK homes at the end of last year. This is no doubt contributing to the TV viewing increase noted by Ofcom.
This underlines the positive contribution on-demand consumption can make to viewing-levels increasingly under pressure in a traditional linear broadcast environment.