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One in three Internet users in the UK is watching TV online, according to a new study by the British media regulation authority Ofcom. This trend seems to be largely driven by the BBC’s iPlayer, which is used by 27 percent of the country’s online population. However, traditional TV viewing still plays a huge role, and time-shifting through DVRs is growing quickly.
Compare those data points to other countries in Europe, and you’ll get a significantly different picture. Online TV platforms are far less developed in Germany, for example, a country that just like the UK has a strong online population. DVRs are also much more popular in the UK than elsewhere. Still, there’s one thing we all seem to agree on, no matter where we are: We do love our TV.
We’re the first ones to admit that NewTeeVee can be a little U.S.-centric in its coverage of the online video world. That’s why we’re happy when institutions like Ofcom crank out studies like the UK Adults’ Media Literacy 2009 Interim Report, which can be downloaded in full from Ofcom’s web site (PDF). The report is based on survey data from this spring, and Ofcom is currently in the process of getting additional data for a complete 2009 report to be published early next year.
The data currently available is already pretty revealing: 29 percent of all online Brits watch TV on the Internet, and almost all of those (27 percent, to be precise) use the BBC’s iPlayer. Around 9 percent watch TV shows or download movies from other web sites. More than 40 percent of users between the ages of 16 and 34 watch TV or movies online.
Compare those numbers with a country that doesn’t have the iPlayer, and you’ll see the real impact the BBC’s online programming is having: TV networks in Germany have only recently begun to publish full-length shows on the web, and there isn’t any single popular platform comparable to either Hulu in the U.S. or the iPlayer in the UK. Around 62 percent of all German Internet users are watching online video, but only around 4 percent regularly, while some 17 percent occasionally frequent the media sites set up by TV networks, according to a study published by the German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF (Full disclosure: I occasionally contribute to programming aired by ZDF.) earlier this year. Most users instead go to video portals like YouTube or Germany’s Sevenload, presumably to watch short clips of their favorite shows that were uploaded by other users.
The gap between the UK and continental Europe seems to be even bigger when it comes to DVR use. Ofcom’s report reveals that 34 percent of UK households now own a TiVo-like device. Two years ago, roughly 23 percent of all Brits were able to time-shift TV content. In Germany, less than 4 percent of all households owned a DVR in 2008, according to a study published late last year.
There is, however, one thing that unites Brits and Krauts: TV is still the most popular medium, despite heavy Internet usage in both countries. German Internet users spend 70 minutes every day online, but 228 minutes in front of the TV. And 51 percent of all Brits say they would miss TV the most if it was taken away from them; only 15 percent would miss the Internet more than any other medium. Interestingly enough, TV got even more popular over recent years: In 2005, it was only mentioned by 44 percent of all UK respondents as the medium to be missed the most.