How NI’s viewing habits are changing
Ofcom’s latest Communications Market Report paints a picture of an increasingly interconnected Northern Ireland, where the internet is now accessed through our TV as well as smartphones and tablets. http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/business/technology/how-nis-viewing-habits-are-changing-36007303.html
Ofcom’s latest Communications Market Report paints a picture of an increasingly interconnected Northern Ireland, where the internet is now accessed through our TV as well as smartphones and tablets. More than three-quarters of adults (76%) in Northern Ireland now own a smartphone, and nearly six in ten (58%) say this is their most important device for going online. Ofcom’s research also reveals a rise in tablet ownership, with three in five households (62%) now having one.
One-third (33%) of homes in Northern Ireland now have a smart TV – almost double what it was last year. Four out of five homes (79%) have a fixed-line broadband connection. And it’s in TV where these devices and the broadband and mobile services that support them is having the biggest impact. Long gone are the days when there were a handful of TV channels and just a single TV in the house on which to watch them.
Viewers are embracing the freedom to watch what they want, when they want. While watching live TV remains important, people are increasingly turning to catch-up and on-demand streaming platforms. Services from the public service broadcasters, such as the BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub, are the most popular ways of watching on-demand and streaming programmes but significant numbers are also using YouTube for watching programmes and films (27%), while 28% now use Netflix and 16% use Amazon Video. The growing popularity of on-demand services is turning us into a nation of binge viewers, where we watch multiple episodes of a series in one sitting, wiping out the wait for next week’s instalment. One third (35%) of adults in Northern Ireland do so every week, and more than half (55%) do it monthly.
This technology has been around for a while but we are now seeing a tipping point where these services have become mainstream. These are important developments not just for consumers but for companies providing these services and for media professionals that use these platforms for advertising, sponsorship and promotion. These changes aren’t yet seismic but a trend has been developing in recent years, which is the kind of thing that Ofcom’s Communications Market Report is adept at picking up and highlighting.
The report looks at people’s take-up and usage of technology across a range of sectors, from TV and radio through to post, telecoms and the internet. People in Northern Ireland now spend more than 20 hours every week online, and younger people are far more likely to be online than the over-65s. People in households with children are also more likely to have an internet connection than those without children (90% versus 72%). Despite the rise in online activity, traditional media remains important and dominant.
Adults in Northern Ireland spend more time watching live TV (an average of 3 hours 36 minutes a day) than engaging in any other communications activity, though there are big differences between younger and older viewers. Younger viewers watch less live TV and much more on-demand programming than older ones. Ofcom’s research also shows that people continue to turn to TV first to keep up with the latest news. More than seven in ten adults (72%) in Northern Ireland say TV is the most important source of news in Northern Ireland, followed by radio (12%) and websites or apps (7%).
Listening to the radio continues to play an important part in our lives, and nine in 10 people in Northern Ireland tune in every week. So, while viewers and listeners are consuming media in more ways than ever, the core activities of watching live TV and listening to radio remain strong. Researching the trends that are developing around these activities is key to understanding what people will be doing in three, five or 10 years.
Jonathan Rose is Ofcom’s Northern Ireland director.
Its Communications Market Report is available on its website, visit www.ofcom.org.uk/cmr
Britain is a broadband laggard with an average speed ranking it 31st in the world trailing most of Europe, Thailand and New Zealand. A new report has found that across the UK the average broadband download speed is 16.5Mbps, at which it takes about an hour to download a lengthy Hollywood film such as Lord of the Rings or an entire TV box set.
The average speed in the UK is less than a third that of Singapore, which tops the global league table measuring broadband in 189 countries, where it takes an average of 18 minutes to download a 7.5Gb film.
The UK falls well short of the average speeds enjoyed by European countries including Germany (18.8Mbps), Spain (19.6Mbps), Sweden (40Mbps) and Hungary (23Mbps). Outside Europe, the UK is bettered by nations including the US (20Mbps), Canada (18Mbps) and New Zealand (16.6Mbps). The report found that overall the UK lags behind 19 European countries, 17 of them in the European Union.
“These results offer us a fresh perspective on where we sit in the broadband world,” says Dan Howdle, consumer and telecoms analyst at Cable.co.uk, which produced the report. “Relatively speaking, we are near the top of the table. However, many of those ahead of us, some a long way ahead, are our neighbours both in the European Union and wider Europe.
Is it good enough to lag behind 20 other European countries in terms of broadband speed?”
Major European countries that fared worse than the UK include France, which ranked 37th, and Italy at 46th.
Ofcom has set a goal of delivering a minimum of 10Mb broadband to all UK households. This is the minimum speed the media regulator deems necessary to cope with a typical family’s internet needs such as streaming Netflix, downloading a film on Sky and browsing the internet.
Last month, a group of 57 MPs published a report calling on Ofcom to make broadband providers such as BT and Sky compensate customers who do not get the connection speeds they are promised1. Ofcom reckons that the average UK broadband download speed theoretically achievable – although not necessarily the speeds experienced by home internet users – reached 36Mbps in November last year2. Howdle said Cable.co.uk’s report shows an emergence of a broadband “first world” and “third world” with many less developed countries such as Somalia, Congo, Gabon and Malawi appearing at the bottom of the list.
Twenty of the top 30 fastest-performing countries are in Europe, and 17 of the slowest-performing 30 countries are located in Africa.
However, many countries and regions, such as Africa, are expected to bypass broadband via cable and move straight to mobile internet technology.
The report, which examined global data from 63m speed tests over the course of a year, was put together by open internet measurement firm M-Lab, a consortium of partners including New America’s Open Technology Institute, Google Open Source Research and Princeton University’s Planet Lab.
Last month, BT made an offer to the government to roll out broadband to the last 1.4m homes in the UK without it. They are mostly in locations where it is uneconomical for broadband providers to extend their services, such as parts of rural Wales, Cornwall, Yorkshire and Scotland.
Global broadband average speed league table
2. Sweden 40Mbps
3. Taiwan 34.4Mbps
4. Denmark 33.5Mbps
5. Netherlands 33.5Mbps
6. Latvia 30.3Mbps
7. Norway 29Mbps
8. Belgium 27.3Mbps
9. Hong Kong 27Mbps
United Kingdom 16.5Mbps
Source: Cable.co.uk, M-Lab