Catch-up viewing

Small shifts in timeshift

Year after year, perhaps unsurprisingly, we’re watching slightly more timeshifted TV: the 7-day figure was 13.2% in 2015 compared to 12.3% in 2014.

And the demographic breakdown proves yet again that it’s the busiest people who do it most. Busiest or, in the case of children, those subject to other time pressures, like parents telling them it’s time for bed.

But by and large, the most avid viewers of recorded TV programmes are those who have a life outside the home: adults between the ages of 16 and 44, with a pronounced peak in the 25-34 banding.

These are people who, if they’re not working late, are out and about on the town. And as ever there are some interesting regional variations. Bottom (or top, depending on your point of view) of our table is the Ulster region. A foolhardy social anthropologist might conclude from this figure that there’s not much to do in Northern Ireland aside from watching live telly. There are similarly low levels of timeshifted viewing in Wales, Scotland and the Border regions.

We believe the levels have more to do with commuter patterns and work life balance issues: those low timeshift viewers in Ulster, Wales, Scotland and the Borders are probably enjoying all the benefits of living away from the cities. The biggest timeshifters are Londoners and those in the south and south- east, many of whom are often forced to spend long hours at work sandwiched between soul-destroying long commutes.

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Where timeshifted genres are concerned, there’s clear evidence again this year that we’re a nation that stockpiles soaps and other forms of popular TV drama. It’s also worth noting that, though children watch
a lot of timeshifted TV, kids TV isn’t a big timeshifted genre. So, in all probability, kids are actually contributing to the high figures for soaps.

And again, fairly obviously, sports, news, weather and current affairs are down at the bottom of the table. Half the fun of participating in a big sporting event is the notion that you’re playing your part, however vicariously, within a wider community beyond your living room. And there’s another ontological factor in play here too.

Even if you manage to avoid discovering the final score of, say, a football match, you can never successfully timeshift the outcome anxiety that adds spice to a sporting event. Similarly, watching old news is surely an acquired taste.

There is clear evidence that timeshifting is linked to time poverty and work life balance. 

Lastly, our graph of kit uptake reinforces a notion we discussed in last year’s report: that the percentage of people living in a PVR household seems to be hitting a plateau at around 75 per cent.

In some senses, this is counter-intuitive. After all, historically speaking, if a piece of household hardware becomes popular (breaking, say, the 50 per cent barrier), then it tends to go on to become universal.

Underlying the anomalous PVR adoption curve is that its slowdown is being determined by both technophobes (who like a bit of telly but have found other ways of catching up with their favourite programmes) and technophiles, who presumably see PVRs as already rather passé.

But whichever way you explain it, the PVR refuseniks add up to a quarter of the population: an intriguingly large chunk of the market. One way or another, different players in the market will see opportunities here.

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