By Daniel Hunter
TV-loving UK consumers lead the world in using the latest technology to enhance their viewing experience, new Ofcom research reveals.
The UK is ahead of other countries such as Japan and the USA for catching up with TV online and is at the forefront of using new technology such as smart TVs and digital video recorders (DVRs).
These findings are revealed in Ofcom’s seventh International Communications Market Report, which examines take-up, availability, price and use of broadband, landlines, mobiles, TV, radio and post across 17 major countries.
Ofcom’s report shows that the UK is embracing the latest TV technology, as the country becomes one of the first all-digital nations, following the digital TV switchover which was completed in October.
As well as being the leading country for the adoption of digital video recorders, which allow you to catch-up on your favourite programmes on your TV set, UK consumers are the most likely in the world to access TV content over the internet. Almost a quarter (23%) of UK internet users claimed to do this every week — driven by the popularity of online TV catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer, Sky Go and 4OD. The USA ranked second with 17%, with Spain third (16%).
The UK also has one of the highest proportions of TV homes with high definition — at 41%, higher than France (18%), Germany (28%) and Japan (31%), but behind the US (49%).
UK consumers are also embracing the new generation of smart TVs — enabling access to online services such as catch-up TV viewing, social networking and gaming on the TV set. Fifteen per cent of UK consumers say they own a smart TV. This is the same as France, but compares to 10% in the USA.
The average UK viewer watches over four hours (242 minutes) of TV every day, with only the USA (293 minutes) and Italy (253 minutes) watching more.
Earlier this year, Ofcom revealed that TVs in the UK’s living rooms continue to get bigger. Over a third (35.4%) of TV sets sold in Q1 2012 were either ‘super-large’ (33” to 42”) or ‘jumbo-sized’ (43”+), up from 6.8% in 2005.
Ofcom’s report shows that the UK has one of the highest penetrations of smartphones, at 58%, while just under one in five (19%) has a tablet computer.
UK consumers are using laptops, smartphones and other connected devices to access the internet more often than other countries. Half (51%) use a laptop most often to connect to the internet, while 6% prefer smartphones and 6% other connected devices. Only 37% use a desktop computer as their most frequent means of accessing the internet.
As a result, for the first time, UK consumers are downloading more data on their mobiles and tablets than any other major nation. In December 2011, the average UK mobile connection used 424 megabytes of data, whether for social networking, streaming videos, web browsing or downloading music.
This was higher than any other major country, pushing Japan into second place (at 392 megabytes) and the US into sixth (319 megabytes).
One sixth (16%) of all website traffic in the UK was on a mobile, tablet or other connected device, higher than any other country in Europe. Much of the use of mobiles, particularly smartphones, appears to be driven by the popularity of social networking sites on mobile phones. Four in ten (40%) UK adults now use their mobile phones to visit social networking sites, while among 18-24 year olds almost two thirds (62%) do so — more than any other major country.
Internet shopping is now more popular in the UK than any other major country, and this is increasingly driven by use of mobile devices.
UK consumers have now broken the £1,000-a-year spend barrier on internet shopping — more than any other country in our research. In 2011, the per-head spending on e-commerce was £1,083 in the UK, up 14% from £950 in 2010. Australia spends the second highest at £842, with Sweden third at £747.
UK adults also like to shop on the move. Over a fifth (23.1%) of UK smartphone users use their device to visit retail websites — the highest level out of the five largest European countries. Germany is second with 22.6%.
Ofcom’s analysis shows that the price of UK communications services compares favourably to those in other countries.
The research examines the price of ‘baskets’ of communications services (fixed-line phone, mobile phone calls and texts, fixed and mobile broadband and TV) for five household types. It compares prices in the UK with those in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the USA.
However, the research shows that while the UK remains the cheapest, the gap with other countries is narrowing. Overall prices in the UK have remained relatively stable when inflation is taken into account. In comparison, total prices in comparator countries have generally fallen, driven in particular by cheaper mobile telephone services.
The analysis shows that weighted average prices in the UK were the lowest for all five baskets when buying services individually. The UK also had the lowest possible prices for four of the five baskets when bundled services were taken into account.
A family of two adults and two teenage children with average usage needs would pay £146 a month for its communication needs when bought individually. This was the lowest of the comparator countries: £32 less than in France, £101 cheaper than Italy and £168 lower than in the USA. When bought as a bundle, the lowest price available to UK consumers was £112, second to France at £94, and half the amount in the USA of £224.
“Our research shows that UK consumers continue to benefit from one of the most advanced markets for communications products and services," James Thickett, Ofcom’s Director of Research, said.
“We have always been a nation of TV lovers, and our research shows that UK consumers are world leaders in using the latest TV technology. By catching up on programmes online or using smart TVs, the UK public is finding new ways to enhance their viewing experience.
“Our research reveals that the UK leads the way in using the internet on the move. Increasingly, it’s mobile devices like smartphones and tablets that are driving this growing demand for data — and in the UK it seems to be social networking sites that are behind this in particular.
“We have a long history of catalogue shopping in the UK, and as many daily activities are increasingly carried out online, the internet has become the new destination for many shoppers.”
Ofcom’s research shows that TV viewers in the UK and Japan followed the London 2012 Olympics most frequently — with over a quarter (UK: 28%, Japan: 26%) watching it several times every day. In both countries, more than half the population (56%) watched it at least once a day.
Across the world, the vast majority of people who watched the Games did so weekly using their TV, led by the UK (89%). In France viewers were more likely to use other devices: just 73% used a TV to watch the games weekly.
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