The UK Television Landscape Report

The primary role of secondary TV sets

13 December 2017

Every year we purchase around ten million TV sets in the UK, and this number has been largely unchanged for some time. In Q3 this year, our Establishment Survey found that there are over 53 million TV sets in households across the UK; not quite one per person, but an average of 1.9 sets per home. Our previous research has shown that we are investing in bigger TV sets for the main living room, but what about the TV sets that we use as secondary sets, be it in the bedroom, kitchen or study?



We know from our panel data that television is not just for the living room, and whether it’s because another member of the household is watching the main set, or because you’re watching TV in bed, secondary set viewing accounts for around 14% of all consolidated 7-day TV set viewing in the UK.

So, it’s clear that secondary TV sets are a vital source of the television we love to watch. Despite the widespread availability of new computer devices on which to watch television, the proportion of TV set viewing on secondary sets is actually marginally up on the same period in 2010.

But just where do we place our secondary sets, which type of household has them and how are they changing? As usual, our Establishment Survey can explain all.

Where are secondary TV sets placed?



Viewing data shows that, given the chance, our preference is to watch television in our main living room, relaxing on the sofa in front of the big screen. However, that is not always possible, perhaps due to disagreements on what to watch with others in your household, or for reasons related to circumstance and timing. This is reflected in the most common location of additional TV sets within the home. There are nearly 14.5 million sets located in adults’ bedrooms, where we can watch breakfast TV as we get ready for work, or perhaps so we can hide under the covers when watching a scary late-night movie!

Which type of household has secondary TV sets?



Although being able to watch TV in another room is a luxury of convenience, it’s apparent from our data that it is also likely to be a necessity. Household members’ desire to watch different programmes can often lead to disagreement on which programme is chosen, and we also like to watch the majority of television live, together with the rest of the UK. Looking at the chart above, we can see that as the number of people in the home increases, so too does the average number of TV sets. This suggests that multiple TV sets are necessary for household members to watch the wide variety of TV programming available.

How are secondary TV sets changing?



Our previous research has found that households are getting progressively larger TV sets for their main living room, but what about secondary TV sets? We can see that secondary TV sets are also increasing in size, perhaps due to households taking advantage of wall bracketing in bedrooms, or the opportunity to move the old main TV set into another room. Today, nearly 20% of all secondary TV sets are at least 40 inches wide (chart 4); in Q3 2010, this figure was only 3.2%, highlighting the sheer scale of transition and importance that secondary TV sets have in our homes and in our lives.



Well over 50% of households in the UK pay for broadcast television services, so it is clear that channel line-up is very important to us. However, traditional distribution techniques through cabling and set-top boxes have meant that extending pay-TV services to more than one room in the home has not only been costly but also physically difficult. As such, when we look at the platforms available on secondary TV sets, we can see a significant divergence from the main TV sets (chart 5).

Whereas the majority of main TV sets get their TV services from pay-TV operators, for secondary TV sets, this stands at just 27%. 32% of main TV sets have a Sky box attached, but for secondary TVs this figure is just 18%. Likewise, only 7% of secondary TV sets receive Virgin Media, compared to 15% of main TV sets. The result is that Freeview is the dominant platform for TV channel selection on secondary sets. Of course, the way in which we get our television is now changing, with platform providers now offering easier in-home network distribution of content to multiple TV sets, so it will be interesting to see whether this pattern changes over time.

The way in which we watch television is changing, but in amongst all of the new distribution techniques, platforms and technologies remains the constant that drives 99% of all viewing: the TV set. And whether its the 50-inch TV screen in the main living room or the 30-inch secondary set in the bedroom, TV sets remain the primary and fundamental method of consuming the UK’s favourite medium, television.