Two pieces of new research appear to provide encouragement for the commercial media sector. First, there is Ofcom's latest report, which suggests that UK consumers spend an average of 45 per cent of their waking time interacting with media (defined here as "TV/mobile and other communications devices").
The TV body Thinkbox also unveiled the latest TV audience figures, backed by data from the IPA TouchPoints survey. And the Thinkbox figures, unsurprisingly perhaps, make a compelling case for the power of the medium. TV viewing shot up during the first half of 2010 (partly due to the popularity of the football World Cup) and commercial TV now accounts for 62 per cent of this viewing.
It's a sign that multichannel, overwhelmingly populated by commercial channels, is gaining greater penetration. So it's people sitting down to watch Coronation Street on ITV and reruns of 'Allo 'Allo! on Gold and Bullseye on Challenge who are really contributing to this increase in TV viewing.
Good news for broadcasters and advertisers, perhaps. But the Ofcom report attempts to dig a little further in terms of media consumption habits and especially consumers' evolving relationship with new media. Its findings on the ways in which, for instance, viewers are using several types of media at the same time potentially raise concerns for advertisers about the efficiency of their TV spend.
1. Ofcom's annual Communications Market Report revealed that viewers are spending 45 per cent of their time using TV or interacting with mobiles or other communications devices. Despite a significant increase in smartphone use (13.5 million UK adults used mobiles to surf the web in the first quarter compared with nine million in the first quarter of 2009), Ofcom found that people are continuing to spend a significant amount of time watching TV each day - with an average person watching for three hours, 45 minutes. Thinkbox's figures are more dramatic. Its TouchPoints-inspired research suggests that the average viewer watched 28 hours, 15 minutes of "linear broadcast TV" each week - an increase of two hours on the first half of 2009.
2. The Ofcom report suggests that an increasing number of viewers may be doing something else concurrently with this TV use. Its findings suggest that the average person fits some eight hours, 48 minutes of media use into just seven hours on an average day. The regulator also found another potential area of concern for advertisers - increased use of time-shifted TV viewing, providing the potential to skip through ad breaks. Its figures suggest that since 2006 the proportion of time-shifted viewing has more than tripled. However, this remains at a relatively low 5.9 per cent. And, encouragingly for big-brand advertisers, it seems that peaktime evening viewing is on the increase. Media multi-tasking is less likely in the evening, with half of all people consuming just one type of media in the evening as they settle down to watch the likes of The X Factor and Champions League football.
3. Thinkbox's research suggests that multi-tasking and time-shifted viewing are not having a negative impact on levels of viewing of TV advertising. Barb findings indicate that the average viewer watched 45 TV ads a day in the first six months of 2010, compared with 43 in the first six months of the previous year.
4. Total TV revenue, as Ofcom points out, declined by 0.4 per cent to £11.1 billion in 2009, mainly due to a 9.6 per cent fall in TV ad revenue to £3.1 billion, the biggest drop since 2003. However, Thinkbox research seems to indicate that media consumption trends won't necessarily mean gloom for broadcasters. Its research, in association with MediaCom, revealed that some 30 per cent of responses to websites are driven by TV advertising and the trend for "the high street in the living room", which sees consumers view a TV ad before immediately responding online via their PC or mobile device.
5. Ofcom's report deals mainly with TV and internet use but also highlights Rajar statistics that radio's reach is growing - with a new high of 90.6 per cent of the population (46.8 million adults) listening to radio at least once a week during the second quarter of 2010. However, listening time for radio has declined, falling 5.3 per cent over the five years to 2009 as media habits evolve.
WHAT IT MEANS FOR ...
- A sign that media fragmentation and complex choice for consumers means a more complex world for broadcasters, which are increasingly working across channels.
- Toby Roberts, the head of planning at OMD UK, says: "There is now a polarisation between very small media and very big media and the media vehicles that do well are those that can target more people across different channels."
- And Ofcom's report, including indications that smartphone use and media multi-tasking is on the rise, is not necessarily a doomsday scenario for broadcasters. However, Ofcom and Thinkbox both highlight the continued success of TV during evening peaktime. Perhaps because 22 per cent of people acquired a HD-ready TV set in the past year and sales of HD sets have passed 24 million. As Roberts says: "People still want to sit back and relax with TV entertainment."
- Advertisers continue to have the ability to target large audiences via linear TV but agency planners predict that higher levels of smartphone use and online interactivity will lead to more user-generated content that works across platforms. Roberts concludes: "Nothing's going to die overnight but clients will be seeing greater openness with media meshing together and consumers becoming more involved in content."