Primetime Linear TV Still Rules the World, Ericsson’s ConsumerLab Finds

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN — Reports of the demise of primetime TV are premature, according to data from Ericsson’s ConsumerLab. Of thousands queried worldwide, 85 percent said they watch appointment TV in the evening at home.

“Linear TV still has an important role for consumers, and we don’t see any decline in frequency of usage,” said Anders Erlandsson, senior researcher at Ericsson ConsumerLab.

ConsumerLab’s latest Insight Summary Report emphasized the viewing behavioral phenomena du jour, such as time- and place-shifting, but the numbers indicated that the boob tube in the living room remains at the top of the charts. Survey respondents watched TV on TV, at home, an average of nearly 14 hours a week. Desktop watching was next at less than half that amount. Smartphone viewing comprised less than four hours a week.

The primary difference is that people are using mobile devices while they’re watching traditional, linear TV. (1-3-9 Labs in East Sussex, England, found the same thing. See “Watching the Watcher.”)

“The average home entertainment setup is moving away from using separate TVs in each room,” the report said. “Instead, a growing number of households use a large main TV supplemented by a number of mobile devices that provide access to services from anywhere in the home.”

TV is evolving into a multiscreen, multitasking activity: 75 percent of respondents said they multitasked with mobile devices while watching; 25 percent watched video on a device while also watching TV. The top activity was reading email (63 percent) followed by random web surfing (56 percent); intentional web surfing (49 percent); using social media (40 percent); chatting about the show (29 percent); competing with others about the show (14 percent); watching the same show from different camera angles (14 percent); voting (13 percent); betting (13 percent).

The preferred content on linear TV was live events, which were more closely linked to social viewing. On-demand content was more likely to be bounced in terms of time and place. One changing characteristic of on-demand viewing is the migration away from physical media. Streamed TV and video showed slight growth over the last two years, while downloaded and recorded content declined. On-demand content was also subject to place-shifting.

“The continue viewing function of many on-demand services is driving a new phenomenon known as ‘place-shifted’ viewing,” the report said. “This involves consumers watching one piece of content over a period, in a number of different situations, by using the same service on different devices. It enables them to break up the viewing of the content and turn a single episode or film into a mini-series—for example, they may watch the first five minutes on thee bus, followed by half an hour at lunch and then finish the episode while waiting for friends at a café.”

Time- and place-shifting was not relegated to the young and hip, as is typically assumed: 41 percent of the 65-69 set in the ConsumerLabs sample watched streamed or time-shifted material more than once a week.

“Previously, we have seen rapid growth in on-demand viewing,” Erlandsson said. “Now, we are seeing that trend taper off somewhat, but among people aged 55-59, the growth is dramatic—with an 18 percent increase in on-demand viewing more than weekly since 2011.”

The data also gave credence to cord-cutting: 7 percent of respondents “eliminated” pay TV subscriptions in 2012. Another 11 percent did likewise in this year’s sample.

One more facet researchers explored was “the optimal TV and video experience.” A the top of the list—ad-free content—followed by HD quality, on-demand availability, simplicity and à la carte availability. The least-desired functions included personalized on-screen apps and widgets, video telephony, standard TV apps, multiple camera angles and interactivity.

“The quest has begun to become the first easy to use, à la carte TV solution provider that aggregates consumer TV and video needs,” Erlandsson said.

The research was carried out via 1,000 online interviews with people age 16-59 in each of 15 countries: the United States, Canada, Chile, Brazil, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Spain, Russia, Taiwan and South Korea. Another 2,300 people 60-69 were queried in the same countries.