In many ways the UK television market is quite similar to the US market. UK citizens watch 3 hours and 52 minutes of TV a day, just a bit less than the 4 hours and 36 minutes watched in the US. Two thirds of homes have a DVR, a bit more than the half of US homes with one. And in both countries about 11% of viewing is on-demand, 89% is watched live.
The two countries are alike in another way: OTT TV viewing pales in comparison to Live TV viewing. In the latest iPlayer usage data from the BBC, that couldn’t be clearer. During primetime viewing hours both regular TV viewing and iPlayer usage peaks at around about the same time. Yet peak viewership of television is 26.1M, while iPlayer usage peaks at 634,000. That’s just 2.43% of regular TV viewing. Notwithstanding the small number of people watching OTT at primetime, this still represents strong growth. In December 2011, just 1.46% of viewing was through iPlayer.
Average daily usage of iPlayer has grown quickly over the last 4 years. In October 2010, average daily online requests were 3.5M, and have more than doubled, to 7.7M, in October 2014. However, at this rate it will take a very long time for iPlayer usage to come anywhere near TV viewing numbers.
The story is similar in the US. Nielsen reports that people spend 7% as much time watching video on the Internet as live television.
Another way the countries are similar is in the rise in use of mobile devices for viewing. Earlier this year, Ooyala reported that 21.5% of video plays were to mobile devices, up 133% on previous year and 532% over 2012. According to the BBC, 61% of online TV requests to iPlayer are from mobile devices.
In the US, the mobile device driving video consumption is the smartphone. It took over from the tablet in late 2013 and has not looked back. In the UK, it is the tablet that dominates. 35.5% of online TV requests come from tablets versus 25.3% from smartphones. However, evidence is that the smartphone is catching up. Year-over-year growth in use of tablets is an impressive 35%, but the smartphone has it beat. Usage of it grew 42% over the previous year.
The PC is in decline for video use in both the UK and US. In the UK, the collapse in PC video use is spectacular. In October 2012, 58% on online iPlayer TV requests came from the PC. By October 2014, just 30% of requests came from the PC. Similarly, in the US mobile devices have taken over from the PC. comScore reports that tablet TV watching has eclipsed the PC and the smartphone is not far behind.
The BBC continues to fine tune its iPlayer strategy. In the last year the company has premiered more shows on iPlayer than ever before, substantially redesigned the user interface and extended the period many shows are available from 7 to 30 days. 2015 should be another year of solid growth in usage, though it is likely to remain a small part of the British television diet for some time to come.
Why it matters
The UK and US are quite similar in the way consumers in both markets watch television.
There are also strong similarities in the way they watch online TV as well.
In both countries live TV watching continues to dominate, and this doesn’t look likely to change for some time to come.