New Ericsson Report Finds Major Changes in Television Viewing Habits

Television viewing habits throughout the world are undergoing major change. A new report from Ericsson finds that streaming video is closing in on linear TV with a gap of just two percentage points in terms of weekly consumption.

In this dramatic shift, streaming video is now almost level with traditional TV watching, with 75 percent of consumers watching streamed content several times a week, compared to 77 percent who watch scheduled broadcast TV programming several times a week. By 2020, the study said viewers will access as much on-demand content as linear content.

Views want TV on their terms
The annual Ericsson ConsumerLabTV and Media Report issued in September validates the growing global popularity of watching television anywhere, at any time or any device. Since 2012, the number of people who are prepared to pay for accessing TV content on any device has increased by 25 percent, the study found. One in five viewers say they are prepared to pay for the ability to access their favored content on any device.

Smartphone viewing time has increased over the past two years by 15 percent, despite significant remaining barriers. At the same time, viewing has decreased on the fixed desktop computer. Younger viewers generally have more extensive video usage outside the home, while older respondents’ viewing is more centered on the home.

New services enabling seamless access to video content have given rise to a new behavior called place shifting − where viewers start watching a video on one device and then continue watching it on another device in a new place. The study found as many as 36 percent of viewers place shift on a weekly basis.

The Ericsson study, done in Stockholm, Sweden, compared monthly mobile video data traffic on Wi-Fi and cellular networks for smartphone users in the U.S. and UK. It showed that heavy and medium video users proportionally consume much more video over Wi-Fi than cellular networks, compared to light video users.

While 41 percent of viewers expressed a desire to be able to watch their favorite shows anywhere, there were two major barriers to this — both related to cost. Either the data cost is too high, or the cost to rent, subscribe or buy video content is too expensive.

Binge viewing is also increasing rapidly in popularity. It is mainly due to program services like Netflix making it easier and more convenient to see multiple episodes of a TV show back-to-back.

The Ericsson study, now in its fifth year, was based on interviews with over 23,000 people in 23 different countries. The countries include Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, Greece, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Taiwan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, the UK and the United States. Almost all respondents use the Internet on a daily basis. The results of the study represent the views of more than 620 million people.

Demand for mobile anywhere grows
The study clearly shows that a shift in user behavior is driving change in the television and media industries, prompting a move away from old formats and business models. The future, according to the study, is an era of on-demand, anywhere, anytime entertainment.

The rise in the amount of time spent watching television content on smart phones and tablet devices is growing fast, the study found. Traditional broadcast and pay TV channels are now seen by many viewers as “content repositories” to cherry-pick individual programs for later viewing using a digital video recorder (DVR). 

The study shows that viewing habits depend greatly on age. Broadcasters face the challenge of retaining the older viewers while meeting the new demands of younger viewers.

DVR functionality is also helping to accelerate the binge viewing trend, which began with the advent of boxed sets of TV series and movie sequels. It is now a sharp contrast to the traditional TV experience of waiting a week for each new episode of a favored show. This mindset is part of a technology-independent transition towards on-demand viewing.

Many viewers told the study’s interviewers that they have moved to subscription-based video-on-demand (S-VOD) services such as Netflix and Hulu. Forty-eight percent said that they would like to see all episodes of a series such as “Breaking Bad” and “House of Cards” released together, so they can choose when to watch them.

Niklas Heyman Rönnblom, senior advisor at Ericsson ConsumerLab, said the research shows that 56 percent of those who pay for subscription-based video on demand services prefer all episodes of a TV series to be available at once, so they can watch at their own pace.

Senior Advisor at Ericsson ConsumerLab Niklas Heyman Rönnblom notes that his research indicates that viewers prefer access to all episodes of a TV series as a package.

Senior Advisor at Ericsson ConsumerLab Niklas Heyman Rönnblom notes that his research indicates that viewers prefer access to all episodes of a TV series as a package.

“There are different ways to binge watch: some viewers do not discover a TV series until mid-season, so they will watch many episodes one after the other to catch up before the season is over,” Heyman Rönnblom said. “Others prefer to watch an entire season at their own pace, which means they have to wait until the entire season is available.”

For 60 percent of consumers, high definition video quality is a very important aspect of their optimal TV/video experience, and 43 percent said that 4K/Ultra High Definition (UHD) is important to them, though most have not yet seen it. Increasing video quality expectations are part of an ever evolving consumer-driven viewing experience, the study found.

Is the death of linear TV inevitable?
Heyman Rönnblom said it is time to change the structure of TV services, since traditional broadcasters and TV providers are facing challenges. “More and more non-live TV will shift toward streaming,” he said. “We will see more of this mobile behavior.”

In the future, viewers will not accept paying for inflexible managed TV packages in order to get access to the content they love, he said.

This chart shows the five most and least important features of TV.

“The results of the study are clear — media companies need to rethink how they create and release content, while the focus for TV service providers is on delivering the highest possible quality for viewers, no matter what device they are watching on,” Heyman Rönnblom said.

“The landscape is changing rapidly, and business and delivery models will have to keep up with that pace of change if they are to continue to deliver perceived value to consumers.”

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