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Smartphones are changing TV viewing habits, especially among the younger generation

Watching TV on Smartphone

With traditional television markets facing disruption around the world by way of competition with streaming video services, it’s no surprise that the proliferation of smartphones and tablets is rapidly changing TV viewing habits, particularly among the younger generation.

Smartphone TV viewing on the rise

You may have missed it but Ofcom issued a report a couple of months back which revealed most 16 – 24 year olds watch on-demand television on computers and smartphones, instead of a TV connected to a set-top box.

The figures in the study show that 57% of young people watch on-demand shows on a laptop or PC, while 45% prefer to view on a smartphone. Only 40% use a set-top box, a figure that is likely to shrink further in the coming years.

Even though online TV viewing has surged in recent years, traditional TV still reaches most of the population in the UK, with a slight dip from 93% in 2013 to 92% in 2015. Most of that drop was among 4 – 15 year olds, with viewing hours falling 12% from 2 hours and 14 minutes per day in 2013 to 1 hour and 58 minutes last year. For the young generation between 35 and 34 years old, viewing fell 9% from 3 hours 5 minutes to 2 hours and 49 minutes in the same timeframe. 16 to 24 year olds watched 6% less television, falling from 2 hours 28 minutes to 2 hours 18 minutes.

Perhaps these figures don’t tell the whole story though, as the television set is still the device most people say they would miss – according to 37% of respondents.

It’s good news for video on-demand (VOD) service providers though, with around 60% of UK adults saying that had used a VOD service in the past 12 months. In the last 6 months of 2014 meanwhile, 57% of adults in the UK used at least one such service, rising from 27% in 2010.

Coming back to the phenomenon of increasing smartphone/tablet viewing, it’s perhaps no surprise that youngsters are turning to their phones to catch up on with the latest on-demand TV shows.

Speaking from personal experience, in my household there is no broadcast TV service at all; instead we have an Apple TV (that gets turned on a couple of times a week to watch a movie) and a multitude of phone and tablet streaming TV apps in order to AirPlay to the main television. And as far as I’m concerned, watching TV on a mobile device is simply a more convenient way to catch up with favourite shows when away from home or for late-night private viewing without disturbing others.

One thing for sure is that the watching traditional TV is in decline, as consumers find more convenient ways to get content wherever and whenever they are, whether that’s on a mobile device, tablet, or on a PC.

Have you cut the cord? Do you prefer to watch television on a phone or tablet? We’d be interested to hear your own experiences – as always let us know in the comments below.

By Roland Banks

Roland Banks has been passionate about mobile technology for the past 20 years. He started his career at British Telecom's research division working on collaborative virtual reality environments, before becoming a video streaming specialist at 3 UK where he helped launch some of the world's first mobile video services. More recently he enjoys writing about his obsession, and developing software that helps mobile operators analyse their subscriber data.

Roland has lived in Asia for the past 5 years, and tries to indulge his other passion for riding motorcycles whenever possible.

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