Our latest poll was less concerned about technical aspects of broadband, but more about an area we are constantly reminded is a major area of growth for broadband, and may prove to be the most visible driver for improving broadband speeds across the UK.
We ran the poll for seven days and attracted over 1,400 responses when we asked people to tell us about their film and TV viewing habits. We asked three questions to see whether Internet streamed films and TV were taking over from traditional broadcast TV, cinema and DVD releases. Based on the responses to the poll, it seems clear to us that while streamed media is popular (watched by 65% of respondents) we have as a nation not replaced our old viewing habits totally.
The most popular time of viewing is spread very well over what is most of our leisure time in the evenings, with 18% managing to view 4 or more hours of TV a day, the peak is in the one to two hour viewing window at 15%. One could say that the pattern fits nicely with most people owning a TV in the living room, and simply switching it on and watching what ever is on.
The red columns reveal a very different spread for Internet based TV viewing, with a distinct peak in the under one hour slot of 42%. Given that almost every film produced is longer than an hour, while the average TV show is under an hour, it suggests that people are using Internet TV as a catch-up tool, rather than the primary source for watching 90 minute films. Part of this may be down to the quality of streamed content, which in many cases is only around what you can get from a DVD, and while HD material is available, very little of it approaches the the quality level of the digital TV HD channels (Freeview, FreeSat and Sky HD) which generally run at around 9 to 13 Mbps (Mega bits per second) with relatively good codecs.
The big surprise for us, was what everyone is watching Internet TV on, the desktop computer and laptop still reign supreme accounting for 51% of the devices used. Mobile phones with their small screens barely register, tablets which share the same operating systems (iOS and Android) fare a lot better we presume mainly due to the reasonable size of the display. Sky Anytime+ which has only recently had its restriction lifted to allow it to be used on any broadband provider seems popular as a source of content in its own right.
The next big hope of the TV industry features well, as the third most popular device, whether this will rise as more people buy the sets is unclear. For the non-geek household Internet enabled TVs should offer a simpler interface, as it is a one remote situation, rather than having to juggle multiple remotes, the biggest hurdle is getting people to connect their TV to their broadband we suspect. The high cost of manufacturer sourced wireless dongles for TVs is not helping, and for many people wireless will prove inadequate speed wise. Certainly for moving a broadband connection around a property, it is still hard to beat an Ethernet cable for speed and reliability.
While many may suggest that the UK has slow broadband speeds, and that is the reason why TV viewing is much higher over broadband, we don’t think that this is a significant factor. While being one of the roughly 10% who can only get fixed line broadband at speeds of under 2 Mbps is very annoying, this speed should still allow basic video streaming of SD (standard definition) content, if someone on a 2 Mbps service cannot for example stream a low quality iPlayer video, then the solution may not involve spending a fortune on faster technology, but simply finding a broadband provider who provides a better service at peak times. Where video streaming and slower connections becomes a real struggle, is when two or more people are competing to use a connection in a home, and it is the ability of the 30 Mbps and faster services to support gaming, web browsing and Internet TV at the same time that is the main visible driver of uptake at this time.