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More than half Brits ‘TV addicts’

Findings from UK DTT platform Freeview, commissioned to find out more about people’s relationship with TV, reveal that Britain is having a love affair with TV, though viewers stick within their comfort zone when it comes to picking what to watch.

The report, National Obsession: our relationship with TV, found that more than half (52 per cent) of the nation – 33 million – admit to being telly addicts. TV forms a solid, valued place in consumers’ lives, with a fifth (21 per cent) saying they watch their favourite programmes out of habit and a third (33 per cent) saying TV brings a sense of structure to their life.

When choosing new programmes, many are risk averse, picking programmes which come recommended by family or friends (43 per cent) or programmes which star a favourite actor (35 per cent). However nearly one in six (16 per cent) admit to trying a new programme out of FOMO (fear of missing out), indicating the desire for social connection that TV fulfils.

The research also found TV is a social enabler, helping people to connect with others – 29 per cent of Britons even felt it helps bring together family, partners or housemates, while just under a third (31 per cent) make some kind of compromise or joint decision with family or housemates about what to watch, showing that the TV viewing context and environment is often as important as what’s on the box.

According to the research, Britons act in a similar way when it comes to TV programmes as they do to household brand names. More than half (52 per cent) of respondents act as television ‘brand advocates’, saying they will recommend a TV programme they have enjoyed. Over a fifth of people (21 per cent) buy into a programme so much that they watch extra or behind-the-scenes spin-off shows, just as they might buy a new product from their favourite brand.

In fact, the research found that people feel closer to some TV ‘super brands’ – such as Sherlock (23 per cent) and Mrs Brown’s Boys (22 per cent) – than to major household brand names such as Apple (21 per cent) and Coca Cola (16 per cent), showing that some TV programmes occupy as great, if not a greater, place in our hearts than many of the products we buy.

Guy North, managing director of Freeview, said the research showed the pivotal role TV plays in many people’s lives. “It helps us relax and unwind, but also brings us closer to those we love and to the outside world. Advances in technology are making this easier than ever before. Catch-up and on-demand TV have given people a new ability to personalise how they watch television, allowing it to fit in with their daily life. That is why we are excited to be launching [connected TV service] Freeview Play, which will allow everyone to fit TV around their personal needs,” he stated.

“However it’s important to note that while we are witnessing technological change, most people, most of the time, watch the same kinds of programmes they always have. Old habits die hard, and Brits are tied to the three ‘Cs’: caution, compromise and choice. Technological innovation enables this but there is also an opportunity for the industry to balance ground-breaking ‘critics’ choice’ programming with shows that appeal to a mass market,” he suggested.

Ralph Lee, C4 Deputy Chief Creative Officer, admitted that as much as the broadcaster loved ‘new’ and ‘innovative’, a successful terrestrial channel had to strike a balance between the familiar and the untested. “Viewers don’t want to be constantly challenged and surprised. All of us sometimes just want to kick back and watch a televisual comfort blanket,” he added.

According to Charlotte Moore, BBC One Controller, the commissioning challenge for the corporation was how to make programmes that stand out from the crowd and engender loyalty to the BBC. “Commissioning live and event television feels more important than ever as it helps create moments that will make audiences feel they are part of something that only the BBC could produce. But I strongly believe that what hasn’t changed over the last ten years is that putting the audiences first and maintaining quality are still the key to effective commissioning,” she declared.

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