Technological advancements in terms of Smartphones, on-demand TV and other hand-held devices can lead to the belief that the traditional pastime of watching television together as a family would begin to decline.
However, new research from Ofcom has contradicted this idea and actually signals a rise in the number of families spending time together in the living room, the highest they have been in the UK for a decade.
Some of the Ofcom findings in numbers for the UK include:
• 91% of people view television on the main family room set each week.
• 49% use Smartphones whilst watching
• 25% share their opinions via texting or social networks.
• 91% of parents said their children use a tablet.
• Mobile internet for the over 55’s has increased considerably in the past three years.
Customarily, where children and teenagers may have been confined to their bedrooms in order to use a PC to access the internet, the high speed online capabilities of mobile phones and tablets means this isn’t necessarily the case anymore.
Most family members will now choose to multi-task by watching television programmes whilst operating their hand-held device at the same time or during adverts. Contrary to popular belief, new technologies are actually allowing families to come together in front of their television sets in a conventional sense.
The high-usage of social media sites also has made watching popular television programmes such as Britain’s Got Talent and the X Factor more appealing for some. This is because users can quickly share their thoughts and see other people’s reactions to the same incidences on screen.
Facebook and in particular Twitter are highly valuable websites for this sort of interaction, either with friends or complete strangers. Some people will watch big live events in the expectation that they will be using social media sites on their phone at the same time.
The ‘trending’ feature of Twitter informs of the most common topics being posted about and will usually revolve around a popular television programme. Using a ‘hashtag’ in tweets has been embraced not only by users of the site but also by TV programmes themselves as a way for viewers to ‘join in’ with goings-on.
The Ofcom study also revealed that a quarter of those surveyed class themselves as ‘media meshers’ – in other words, people who use their mobile devices to connect with the programme on air. For example, this can be using a voting app for a talent show, entering a competition currently on offer or providing personal opinions on a current political discussion.
Viewers will look to share their views on a particular broadcast in the hope of receiving comments and feedback from others, thus making the overall experience more enjoyable. This has become known as ‘Social TV’ where interactive technology is embraced by programme makers and advertisers alike due to its increased significance to viewers
For the younger market who may be keener than others to interact with peers, doing so on the topic of a certain TV broadcast such as Coronation Street, Dancing on Ice or the F.A Cup Final will actually require them to be watching in the first place. As the Ofcom survey suggests, it has influenced them to do so with the rest of the family in the living room.
Rise in Hand-held Devices
The increased trend in more people watching TV as a family has been attributed to the massive increase in use of hand-held mobile devices in recent years. Smartphone ownership has increased from 27% to over 50% in the previous two years, whilst roughly a quarter of the adult population now possess a tablet.
Because of this, connecting to the internet is more accessible from anywhere in the home. The number of television sets in the home is actually decreasing according to the report, especially with younger members of the family. Only 52% of children aged 5-15 possess a TV in their room, compared to 69% in 2007.
In respect to the increase in families watching television together, Ofcom’s head of media research Jane Rumble concluded;
“There are number of factors that are fuelling this – we’re now watching on much bigger, better television sets, but also, there’s the rise of connected devices, such as a Smartphone or tablet. We’re coming into the living room today clutching those devices; they offer a range of opportunities to do things while we’re watching television”.