Smartphones have overtaken laptops as the most popular device for getting online, Ofcom has revealed in its 2015 Communications Market Report. This growing reliance on smartphones is having a significant impact on TV viewing, and more young people are watching on-demand content on smartphones and computers than on a connected TV.
Two thirds of people now own a smartphone, using it for nearly two hours every day to browse the internet, including watching and downloading video content. The rise in smartphone surfing marks a clear shift since 2014, when just 22 per cent turned to their phone first, and 40 per cent to a laptop.
The surge is being driven by the increasing take-up of 4G mobile broadband, providing faster online access. During 2014, 4G subscriptions have leapt from 2.7 million to 23.6 million by the end of 2014.
On smartphones, watching short-form video clips is more popular than watching a film or TV programme: Forty-two per cent of people say they watch short videos from services including YouTube, Instagram Video and Vine on their phone, compared to 21 per cent watching a film or TV programme.
With the proliferation of devices, we are also now spending less time in front of the TV. On average we spent three hours and 40 minutes a day watching on a TV set in 2014, 11 minutes less than in 2013 and the second consecutive year of decline.
The greatest drop was seen among children (aged five to 15), falling by 12 per cent from two hours and 14 minutes in 2013 to one hour and 58 minutes in 2014. Those aged 25-34 watched nearly nine per cent less, from three hours and five minutes to two hours and 49 minutes, while 16-24 year olds watched six per cent less TV, from two hours and 28 minutes to two hours and 18 minutes.
The UK TV industry generated £13.2 billion in revenue in 2014, an increase of 3.1 per cent year-on-year. Online TV revenue increased by 38 per cent in 2014 to £793 million, with income from online TV subscriptions increasing by 53 per cent to £317 million, according to data from HIS.
However, despite people’s increased reliance on smartphones and the popularity of consuming content on new devices, TV still reaches the overwhelming majority of people. Over 90 per cent watch TV each week, down slightly from 93 per cent in 2013, and among adults, the TV is the device people say they would miss the most, cited by close to four in ten. Pay-TV subscription revenues were up 1.9 per cent from £5.9 billion to £6 billion in 2014.
There seems to be a positive response about the increase in time spent online: Almost two thirds of online adults agree that being online is invaluable for keeping them informed about current issues.