How are families changing how they watch TV together? (OFCOM)

The changing nature of family viewing in an ‘always on’ world

Have you ever been sitting watching your favourite TV programme only to be stumped by some guest actor? The face is familiar but where is it from? You pick up your smartphone to ‘quickly Google’ the answer. Or perhaps like me, your husband does not share your taste in entertaining viewing but is more than happy to sit on the same couch as you as long as he can watch something more interesting on his tablet computer (headphones on, of course!). Gone are the days of fighting over who gets to watch their favourite TV programme or waiting for YOUR turn to choose the evening viewing… or is it?

Marketing Sciences recently worked with OFCOM to understand how TV viewing habits have changed with the increased uptake of tablet computers and smartphones for viewing content. You may have read about it recently in the news ( We conducted an online survey among 1, 676 consumers, who all owned a Smart TV, tablet computer and/or smartphone.

Our study highlighted some really interesting findings which will be interesting to track over time as attitudes towards technology changes, and access to different devices moves on.

Despite high levels of new device adoption recently, the main TV set in the living room remains the default screen for live TV viewing. As in my anecdote above, the types of content being viewed on different devices are not out of keeping with regular TV viewing.

Interestingly individuals watching content on their tablets do so as an extension of the types of content they would traditionally have viewed on their television sets (films, TV programmes, series, soaps, etc). The biggest difference between tablet and TV viewing habits is the increase in content streamed/downloaded from the internet through channels like YouTube with 37% saying they watch this type of content daily on their tablet computer. But surely this should not surprise us. After all, doesn’t the mobile nature of tablet computers and smartphones lend itself to snackable content on the go?

While this is true, the types of content viewed on smartphones and tablets do vary slightly, with smartphone owners watching more short video clips (70% v. 62%) and music/music videos (44% v. 39%) at least weekly than their tablet owning counterparts. Furthermore, smartphones are more likely to be used on-the-go than tablets (85% use their tablets at home).

So where are these devices being used most often? This is where it really starts getting interesting.

For tablets the main destinations for viewing content are at home in the bedroom (60%), at home in the same room as the main TV (48%), at home in another room (35%), in the kitchen (23%), in the garden (23%) and in the bathroom (11%).

While the main destinations for viewing content for smartphone users is in the bedroom (51%), while travelling/commuting (46%), at home in the same room as the main TV (43%), while at work (30%), at home in another room (29%), when on holiday or breaks away from the home (28%) and in the bathroom (14%).

While it would appear that tablets and smartphones have replaced the age-old magazine or book generally seen as an accompaniment to the bathroom, they are also increasing encroaching on the main TV room increasing the likelihood of multi-screening.

However, this increase in viewing consumption does not have a big impact on live TV viewing behaviour with 62% saying that they watch the same amount of TV as before and 89% saying that they sit in the same room and watch the same programme on the same screen at least some of the time.

So what is it then that people are doing on those occasions when they are not sitting together watching the same content on the same screen?

While different types of content is favoured on smartphones compared to tablet computers, it is the tablet computer that appears to be used more frequently while doing other things (80%) – the most likely culprit for the infamous multi-screening – the most common of which is watching TV (51%).

To see the full report please click here or if you would like to get in touch please email

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Jackie Chaldecott
01962 842211
Article date - 06/08/2013
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