Online Second Behind Pay TV as Europe’s Preferred Watch

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Audiences in Sweden, the UK, and Germany juggle multiple services to get all the video content they want, and they access those services across multiple devices.

Whereas 12 years ago, when Netflix launched, most European homes relied on a single-source for TV, today nearly half of viewers in all three of the countries are multi-source television households.

That’s according to research undertaken by analyst nScreenMedia in a report sponsored by Nielsen-owned Gracenote.

The "TV Universe—U.K., Sweden, Germany: How People Watch Television Today" report looks at viewing habits around pay TV, free-to-air, and online TV.

Across the board, online TV is now the second most popular source behind pay TV with usage ranging from just under 40% in Germany to more than 50% in the UK and Sweden. The report calls this rise “remarkable” given the relative newcomer status of online.

Being Gracenote-sponsored research, there’s a focus on UI. Six in ten viewers indicated visual imagery and TV artwork displayed in the guides as important factors on their viewing choices. Among 18-to-24-year-olds, the number jumped up to around 90%. In addition, respondents said TV show and movie descriptions that shed light on content are also factors in their tune-in decision-making. 70% of U.K. viewers said the program descriptions were at least somewhat important. 65% of Swedes and 57% of Germans thought the same.

Other data from the report shows free-to-air TV is 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. Over half of free-to-air users in each country use broadcaster apps.

The smart TV is the preferred device to watch video content on in all three countries. A significant 70% of total viewing time is on the TV screen in the UK and Germany, while in Sweden, the number clocks in at 60%.

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

  • 17% 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% 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.”

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