Take-up of Digital Video Recorders and Smart TVs....
TV viewing behaviour has changed considerably in the last 10 years and is set to change even faster
in the near future. “Appointment TV” where people have to be in front of a television set at a
specific time to see a particular program is no longer the normal viewing situation for many people.
I’ve taken the data for this chart from the Analyst Briefing given in December by Ofcom, the UK
government body that regulates the communications industry.
The chart shows the percentage of homes which now possess two electronic TV-related devices;
one device is a Digital Video Recorder (DVR) sometimes also called a Personal Video recorder (PVR),
the other is a Connected TV, or Smart TV. The data shows that in several countries the DVR is now
reaching, or has already reached, the critical 30 per cent barrier. When electronic devices reach
this number of homes they often go on to become widely-adopted mainstream devices. The
adoption of DVRs has been remarkably rapid as these devices are expensive, and they were not
commonly available until around the turn of this century. DVRs are primarily digital TV receivers
with lots of hard disk storage, and their main function is to “time-shift” TV viewing. DVRs were the
first of several TV technologies which have liberated viewers so that they are free to watch the
programs they want to watch when they want to watch them. Broadcasters and the audience
measurement companies have been slow to respond to this situation. One of the key factors about
digital technology is that it completely changes the concept of broadcasting as the content can be
accessed at any time. And I mean any time: I’ve just watched two TV programs, one that was
transmitted a year ago, and one that was broadcast over three years ago. I’ve also recently viewed
my favourite TV ad of all time which was originally broadcast nearly 60 years ago, courtesy of
YouTube. The extent of this possible time span is clearly not considered by broadcasters when they
make the decision to broadcast the particular type of content, and the original format in which the
program is created. This is primarily, of course, because the audience measurement systems
currently used are based on the premise that virtually all TV viewing takes place within seven days
of a program or commercial being transmitted. This premise is totally at odds with the reality that
all TV content now exists in a digital world. A world where TV content is as likely to be viewed
streamed to a mobile phone, viewed on a laptop, or on a games machine, or on a tablet computer
like an iPad as on an actual TV. What’s more this content will have been sourced from the Internet,
DVD, or a hard disk, over surprisingly extended periods of time. And none of this will be related to
the time the original content was produced.
The second device featured on the chart shows the percentage of the uptake of a much more
recent addition in some homes, the Smart TV. This is the generic name given to any Internet
connected TV. These are “converged” devices that have only been commonly available since 2010.
Their primary purpose is to allow Web video streaming to be viewed on a large screen as well, of
course, as other digital TV viewing. They have other uses as well, for example they enable web
video chat and web browsing, but their main use is to provide the comfortable viewing of Web
video in a “lean back” position from a comfortable chair. What the data indicates is that while the
United States led, and still leads, in the adoption of DVRs, the leading country for Smart TV adoption
is France, where penetration has already reached 13 per cent. At this rate of adoption, in a few
years’ time France is likely to have more people watching Smart TVs than are using DVRs.
The big difference between these two devices is that a DVR shifts the time when broadcast viewing
takes place whereas the Smart TV enables selection and streaming from a near infinite pool of
video content available via the Web. The TV industry has yet to adapt successfully to” time-shifted”
viewing let alone the Web “streaming” future that will marginalise broadcasting. Like other media
trends before it broadcasting will not actually disappear but it will have to get used to not being so
important. So, how did you watch your TV over the Christmas holidays, was it broadcast, time-
shifted or streamed? My guess is that it was probably a mixture of all three, but your future
Christmas viewing is likely to include much more streaming.
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