Festive remote battle ends as catch-up TV takes over

Live TV remains very popular on Hogmanay when viewers will tune in to see Jackie Bird on the BBC. Picture: BBC
Live TV remains very popular on Hogmanay when viewers will tune in to see Jackie Bird on the BBC. Picture: BBC
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IT is a battle which divides even the most harmonious of families every Christmas Day as revellers fight to gain control of the group’s festive television viewing schedule.

But now, the annual battle for the Christmas TV remote looks set to be over as viewers move further away from live TV to watch on demand services such as BBC iPlayer.

We’re watching TV at a time that suits us on a range of devices

James Thickett

Ofcom research found that 70 per cent – totalling 31 million – of UK adults will watch TV using free-to-air catch-up services this Christmas, more than all other major European countries and the USA, Japan and Australia.

Year round, the UK saw the greatest decline in traditional live TV viewing among comparator countries, decreasing by 4.9 per cent from 2013 to 2014, according to Ofcom’s International Communications Market Report 2015.

However, despite these trends, traditional live TV remains the most popular way of tuning in, particularly on New Year’s Eve when more than nine in 10 viewers – 11.4 million people – watched live at midnight last year.

Overall, people in the UK are watching three hours and 40 minutes of TV per day, just below the average among 
sampled countries of three hours 43 minutes. Americans watch the most TV overall at four hours and 42 minutes, while the Swedish watch the least, racking up just two hours and 33 minutes a day in front of the television.

James Thickett, Ofcom director of research, said: “UK viewers won’t be tied to the TV schedule this Christmas. More than anywhere else, we’re watching TV and films at a time that suits us, on a range of devices, in and out of the home.

“So this year, more people can fit their festive TV viewing around opening presents and carving the turkey.”

The report also found that although around six in ten UK households had a pay TV service by the end of 2014, more than half of viewing is still to the five major, free-to-air, public-service channels comprised of BBC One and Two, Channel 4 and Channel 5 and ITV.