Study: Europeans increasingly using multiple TV sources

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Findings from a study – TV Universe – UK, Sweden, Germany: How People Watch Television Today – from entertainment metadata specialist Gracenote and digital media analyst firm nScreenMedia, focusing on pay TV, free-to-air and online TV viewership in major European countries, reveal that TV viewing has become a complicated undertaking for European audiences, who juggle multiple services to get all the video content they want and access those services across multiple devices.

For instance, pay-TV is currently the most popular television source in the UK and Sweden with nearly two in three consumers in each market using it. In Germany, however, the most popular source is free-to-air TV, which accounts for the vast majority of viewers at nearly eight in ten.

The study offers the most current and holistic view of consumption behaviour and attitudes towards different TV services and features in the three key markets which combined, account for 31 per cent of the European Union’s total population according to Statista.

A key finding of the research conducted in Q1 2019 was the fast adoption rate of online TV. Across the board, online TV is now the second most popular source behind pay-TV, with usage ranging from just under 40 per cent in Germany to more than 50 per cent in the UK and Sweden. This is a remarkable rise as online TV is a relatively new offering. In fact, Netflix, the original online streaming service, only launched in the UK in 2012. Whereas 12 years ago, most homes relied on a single-source for TV, today nearly half of viewers in all three of the countries studied are multi-source television households.

In all three European markets surveyed, consumers pointed to on-screen programme guides and user interfaces (UIs) as being critical tools for finding content to watch. Six in ten viewers indicated visual imagery and TV artwork displayed in the guides exert important influence on their viewing choices. Among the 18-to-24-year-old demographic, the number jumped up to around 90 per cent. In addition, respondents indicated TV show and movie descriptions which shed light on content are also factors in their tune-in decision-making:

  • 70 per cent of UK viewers said the programme descriptions were at least somewhat important.
  • 65 per cent of Swedes and 57 per cent of Germans thought the same.

Additional themes to emerge from the report:

  • Free-to-air TV gaining traction on mobile: More free-to-air viewers use broadcaster apps to supplement viewing than pay-TV viewers use their operator ‘TV Everywhere’ apps. In fact, over half of free-to-air users in each country use broadcaster apps.
  • The smart TV wins: The TV is the preferred device to watch video content on in all three countries. A significant 70 per cent of total viewing time is on the TV screen in the UK and Germany, while in Sweden, the number clocks in at 60 per cent. Samsung is the most popular TV brand in all three countries.

“Consumer behaviour relating to TV viewing is changing rapidly in Europe as it is around the world,” said Simon Adams, Chief Product Officer, Gracenote. “This new research provides the clearest, most timely snapshot of how viewers in the UK, Germany and Sweden get the movies and TV programs they are looking for and how they discover new content. By understanding viewer needs, behaviors and attitudes, Gracenote is uniquely positioned to help the industry develop new products and features that maximise TV viewership and engagement – critical business priorities in today’s hotly competitive landscape.”

The report also delves into viewing habits by market. Among the most surprising insights:

  • 17 per cent of the UK study group use all three TV sources available to them, higher than in Sweden and Germany.
  • While the on-screen guide is the dominant way Swedes and Brits find content to watch, newspaper TV guides and channel flipping are the main ways for Germans.
  • 31 per cent of Swedes consider online TV to be their primary TV source, the highest of the three countries studied.

“The new TV Universe study shows that online TV has become the second most popular source of TV entertainment in a remarkably short period of time,” said Colin Dixon, Founder and Chief Analyst at nScreenMedia. “Also telling is the fact that, though most online viewing takes place on the television, consumers don’t have the discovery tools they need to efficiently find something to watch there. Features such as voice and cross-service search are thinly used in each country. There is also plenty of room for improvement with content recommendations as a quarter or less think they accurately reflect their interests.”

The consumer research study conducted from February to March 2019 surveyed 1,500 adult TV viewers in the UK Germany and Sweden. The data was weighted to represent the general population of each country. Information gathered from public and private sources, industry interviews and other research sources was also used in the study.


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