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Digital purchases on STBs unearth new audiences

Figures from Decipher’s bi-annual media consumption report Mediabug have shown that half of those who have purchased a TV show or film on their set-top box have never purchased a digital TV show or film before.

Mediabug Wave 7 reports that, to date, 24 per cent of the UK online population have purchased a digital copy of a TV show or film; a practice known as EST (‘electronic sell through’). Most of these buyers have purchased via an online store such as iTunes, Google Play, or Amazon Instant. However, the new option to purchase via your TV set top box from Sky and BT seems to be attracting new consumers to digital buying. To date, 8 per cent of the UK online population have purchased via their set top box, but half of this group (4 per cent) had never purchased EST before.

The finding is a strong indication that STBs are able to reach new audiences previously resistant to purchasing digital entertainment.

Despite high levels of smartphone and tablet ownership in the UK, Mediabug has shown little evidence of mainstream adoption of EST over the last few years. A number of factors are presumed to be contributors. A general lack of awareness over how to management digital entertainment; despite relatively mature services by eco-systems such as Apple and Google that allow multi-device access to digitally purchased copies, and the ability to delete and re-download at any time. Another contributor has been the effort required to get digital copies to the TV screen using devices such as Apple TV or an Amazon Fire TV stick; perhaps a bemusing additional step for the average DVD-equipped home. This has also been occurring against a background of change in the entertainment business model, with all you can eat subscription services such as Netflix, NOW TV, and Amazon Prime Instant Video also gaining traction.

The advent of TV EST knocks down a few of those barriers by allowing purchase and viewing all on the set top box, and there has been speculation that this might just be the tipping point for the mainstream families who are used to their set top box being the main source of entertainment in the home. In what is perhaps a shrewd move on the part of Sky to help transition these DVD-loving homes to a new way of buying, anyone who purchases via their box also gets the DVD sent to them in the mail.

Director of Decipher Media Research Dr. Hamish McPharlin said: ‘The advent of TV EST ticks all the right boxes for mainstream consumers; putting digital purchases right there alongside live TV and recordings on the family set top box. We are not surprised that this has appealed to consumers previously resistant to purchasing via devices’.

Other findings from Mediabug Wave 7 include:

  • Live TV viewing has not lost any share of longform viewing time year on year – breaking a two year decline against SVoD and Catch Up.
  • Both SVoD and Catch Up have halted an 18 month surge in share of viewing, remaining at their 2014 level of 3 per cent, whilst Live TV has in turn halted its decline, remaining at 74 per cent.
  • Catch Up TV increases its share of VoD viewing on set top boxes
  • Growth from Netflix on set top boxes has abated this wave, with increases in share of total TV VoD viewing coming from BBC iPlayer (+3 per cent), ITV Player (+1 per cent), and All 4 (+2 per cent).
  • Online VoD users are getting more mainstream every year. They are split down the middle in terms of gender, and their age and social grade levels are approaching the general population. Perhaps the biggest indicator is that most new entrants are from free-to-air homes. 32 per cent of regular Online VoD users don’t have Pay TV, up 1 per cent year on year; suggesting that Online VoD used is no longer the domain of early adopters.
  • There is evidence that the rapid adoption of SVoD services is reaching its maximum potential, with growth slowing substantially. Netflix added another +1 per cent of online homes this wave, and Amazon Prime and Now TV added a fraction. For now it appears that total SVoD uptake is about ready to plateau, however subscriptions are likely to rally for at least one more surge over Xmas 2015.

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