TV, phones and internet take up almost half our waking hours

18 August 2010

 UKconsumers are spending almost half (45 per cent) of their waking hours watching TV, using their mobiles and other communications devices, new Ofcom research reveals today.

We're now sending four times as many texts per day than in 2004, spending almost a quarter of our internet time on social networking sites and spending 3 hours and 45 minutes per day watching TV.

We're also using several types of media at the same time - with the average person cramming 8 hours 48 minutes of media into just over seven hours during the average day.

The growing popularity of smartphones - and the changing way we use our mobiles - is increasing our overall use of communications, and helping us do much more simultaneously.

This is being particularly driven by the under 25s, although the over 55s are catching up, with half now having broadband at home - the fastest growing age group.

Communication fast facts 2010

  • 89 per cent have or use a mobile phone
  • 92 per cent of UK homes have digital TV
  • 14 per cent live in a mobile-only household
  • A record 104 billion texts were sent in 2009
  • That works out as 1700 texts for every person in the UK
  • Time spent on fixed internet has increased by over two-thirds since 2008
  • Adults now spend 14.2 hours per month on the web
  • 15 per cent of UK adults have mobile broadband
  • Take-up of mobile broadband increased by 8 per cent among 15 to 24s and by 3 per cent among 35-54s
  • Data volumes over mobile networks increased by 240 per cent in 2009
  • A record number of people listened to the radio - 46.5 million adults listened on a weekly basis by the first quarter of 2010

More for less

But while we are doing more, it is costing us less.

For the fifth year in a row, our spending on communications services has decreased.

Ofcom's annual Communications Market Report into the UK's TV, radio, telecoms and internet industries shows that real household monthly spend on communication services fell 9.4 per cent over the past five years to £91.24, as more people choose to buy their services in discounted bundles.

The report also shows that traditional media is far from dead, with TV retaining a central part in our lives, particularly in the evening.

Communications services

Peter Phillips, Ofcom Partner, Strategy & Market Developments, said: 'For the first time we can see just how central media and communications are to our lives - on average we use them for nearly half our waking hours.

'Increasingly, mobile devices - especially smartphones - are used for multi-media, but live evening TV still remains the main entertainment event of the day.

'Younger people have shown the biggest changes in how we use media - particularly using different media at the same time.

'But the divide between younger and older people's use of technology is starting to narrow as more older people are getting online and finding that things like email are very important to them. 'Consumers are using communications services more - phone calls, texting and the internet. Yet they are paying less despite getting more, partly through buying in bundles.'

Listen to Peter Phillips discuss the findings of the Communications Market Report on the Radio 4 Today programme

BBC TV News report on Ofcom's communications research

Ofcom has also also published separate Communications Market Reports for the UK's Nations and Regions. You can read more about these by clicking on the links below.

Communications Market Report - UK

Communications Market Report - England

Communications Market Report - Northern Ireland

Communications Market Report - Scotland

Communications Market Reports - Wales

Below is a more in-depth look at how we're using our communications in 2010.


Mobiles, smartphones and media multi-tasking

A selection of smartphonesMedia multi-tasking - where, for example, you make a phone call while surfing the internet - now accounts for one fifth of all media consumed throughout the day - and the younger the person, the more this happens.

Ofcom's research found that:

  • Among 16-24s, almost a third (29 per cent) of their media activity is simultaneous, compared to just over one eighth (12 per cent) for people aged over 55;
  • UK consumers are now generally using a single device - typically their mobile phone - for more than one type of media and communications use;
  • There has also been a surge in smartphone ownership - up 81 per cent from 7.2 million users in May 2009 to 12.8 million in May 2010;
  • In June 2010, over a quarter of people in the UK (26.5 per cent) said they had a smartphone, more than double the number two years previously;
  • In the first three months of 2010 nearly a quarter of adults (23 per cent) accessed content or sent emails on their mobile phones - among 15-24s this rises to 45 per cent;
  • Surfing the internet via mobile phones is the fastest growing mobile media activity with 1 million new users during the first quarter of 2010 (taking the total to 13.5 million, compared to 9 million in the first quarter of 2009);
  • A fifth (20 per cent) of the time 16-24s spend social networking is on a mobile;
  • In the second quarter of 2010, 63 per cent of new mobile contracts were for 24 months, compared to just 3 per cent in Q2 2008, making smartphones more affordable for consumers as costs are spread over a longer period of time.

Consumers still attached to their TVs and radio

How we use our media throughout the day Media consumption throughout the day

Although media multi-tasking is widespread, half of people consume only one type of media in the evening.

This peak-time evening media use is driven by people watching scheduled live television through their TV set, an activity mainly undertaken on its own rather than with other media.

The time people spend watching TV remains stable, with the average person watching 3 hours and 45 minutes of TV per day.

And despite the growing choice in technology and services available, watching TV remains the activity that most adults would miss the most.

Compared to 2007, a growing number of 16-24s (8 percentage points) and over 55s (7 percentage points) say that watching TV is the activity they would miss the most.

Catch-up TV usage grows

It's not just scheduled live television which continues to be popular.

Ofcom's consumer research from the first quarter of 2010 shows that almost a third of households with internet access used it to watch online catch-up TV - up 8 per cent over the year.

Nearly a quarter of people (22 per cent) say they have bought a HD-ready TV set in the last 12 months and sales of HD ready TV sets have now passed 24 million in the UK.

Five million households have now also signed up to HD services through pay TV, freesat and Freeview services.

Although the continuing demand for TVs could be partly explained by falling prices and digital switchover, it also suggests that consumers are as attached to their TVs as they ever were and are hungry for more channels and better picture quality.

It also highlights the potential for fast growth of other services through TV sets such as internet, or of new technologies such as 3DTV.


Younger and older people embracing technology but in different ways

Graphic showing differing media use between young and oldOfcom's research found that 16-24s are the most efficient users of communications services , squeezing 9.5 hours of media consumption into just over 6.5 hours actual time and spending the largest part of this time on computers and mobiles.

Over two thirds (67 per cent) of the time that younger people spend on the internet on a computer is spent communicating with other people, comprised of 29 per cent social networking, 19 per cent email and 19 per cent instant messaging.

Twenty per cent of 16-24s have accessed the internet through a games console and just a quarter of the time they spend on their mobiles is on voice calls. There is also a growing use of technology among older people, although they typically focus on a narrower range of services.

In 2009 growth in internet take-up appears to have been driven by older age groups. For the first time half (50 per cent) of over 55s have broadband at home and they consider emails to be the most important media activity, with 36 per cent of over 55s using email each day and 47 per cent using email at least once a week.


Social networking grows across all ages groups

Facebook statisticsYounger people are more likely to access social networking sites, with 61 per cent of 15-34s claiming to do so, compared to 40 per cent of all adults - up 10 per cent on 2008.

But it is by no means exclusively a young person's activity.

Nearly half of 35-54s claim to use social networking sites, as do 20 per cent of 55-64s - the latter showing a 7 per cent increase over the past year.

Social networking accounts for nearly a quarter of all time spent on the internet (23 per cent compared to 9 per cent in 2007).

This has been driven by the rapid growth of Facebook - which is up 31 per cent - and the average Facebook user spent 6 hrs and 30 minutes on the site during May 2010.

Facebook was also the most popular mobile internet site in terms of time spent, accounting for almost half (45 per cent) of total time spent online on mobiles in December 2009.


Men, women and their media

Graphic depicting gender differences when using mediaMen spend nearly an hour more per day using media than women - an average of 7 hours 33 minutes per day compared with 6 hours 38 minutes.

Men (25 per cent) are also more likely than women (21 per cent) to use their phones to access the internet although over the past year the gap between the proportions of men and women who use their mobiles for web access has halved from 8 percentage points to 4 percentage points.

Women use their phones more in their own time than at work (71 per cent landline calls, 85 per cent mobile calls), compared to men (54 per cent landline calls, 63 per cent mobile calls).

Women said that they would miss their mobile phone (15 per cent) and landline (8 per cent) more than men (12 per cent mobile phones, 2 per cent landlines) and, while women rate social networking on a computer as a more important activity to them than men, they spend about the same amount of time doing it daily (18 minutes compared with 20 minutes).


Usage up, spending down

Households are consuming more communications and media - more voice calls, more texts, more data and more TV viewing.

But communications spend now accounts for a lower proportion of total household expenditure (4.4 per cent in 2009 compared to 4.6 per cent in 2008) and overall household spend on telecoms services has fallen by over 17 per cent in real terms in the last five years.

The trend to buy communications services in bundles has also grown significantly over past five years.

Rise in 'bundled' communications services

Half of all UK households now buy two or more services from a single provider compared to 29 per cent in 2005. Seventy per cent of people with a bundle said that the main reason for taking one was because it was cheaper.

The recession also led to a change in consumer opinion about the deals operators offer. Eighty-eight per cent of consumers believed that at least one operator was offering better deals than they were 12 months ago. Only 13 per cent thought that no providers were offering better deals compared to 25 per cent a year ago.

Consumers are also now more likely to use online shopping to search for better deals.

Just over half (53 per cent) of respondents with broadband access agreed they were more likely to use the internet to shop, while 61 per cent say they now use price comparison websites more frequently.

Click here for the full Communications Market Report

Graphic of media consumption each day