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Digital Set to Surpass TV in Time Spent with Media in the UK

Mobile fuels the rise in digital time spent

This year, for the first time ever, the amount of time UK consumers spend with digital media (desktops, laptops, tablets and mobile phones) will surpass the amount of time spent viewing television, according to eMarketer’s estimates of media consumption among UK adults. The growth of mobile is key to this shift, as it continues to drive both digital and overall growth of time spent with all media. In contrast, time spent on desktops and laptops is plateauing.

The average UK adult will spend more than 8.5 hours each day consuming media in 2014. Of that total, 3 hours and 41 minutes will be spent online, on nonvoice mobile activities or with other digital media, eMarketer estimates, compared with 3 hours and 15 minutes watching television.

The total reflects simultaneous media consumption—for example, if someone uses a mobile device for 1 hour while watching television, it counts as 1 hour for each activity. The estimates do not attempt to define “primary” focus during simultaneous usage.

The rapid growth of total digital time encompasses multiple shifts in consumer behavior. Increases have not been uniform across all channels. In fact, time spent online (that is, via desktop or laptop computer) is barely growing at all. Online time will reach 1 hour and 52 minutes this year, a mere 4 minutes more than 2013. In fact, in a broad sense, media consumption time is flat with one exception: mobile.

Time spent with mobile (that is, via smartphone, tablet or feature phone) has come to represent more than half of TV’s share of total media time, as well as nearly half of digital media time as a whole. The bulk of mobile time is spent on smartphones, at almost 1 hour per day, but tablets are not far behind. Feature phones account for relatively little time spent on nonvoice mobile activities, since few have robust mobile internet capabilities.

Smartphone usage is the most important contributor to overall usage because key mobile activities (such as email, SMS, social networking and mobile games) tend to be time-intensive and because smartphone penetration rates have sharply increased in recent years.

Tablet time will total a bit less than smartphones, at 44 minutes per day. Video and gaming are two highly time-consuming activities that are common among tablet users, pushing the time spent numbers higher. But relative to smartphones, tablet use is less common: This year, tablet penetration is expected to reach 38.2% of the total population, well short of smartphone penetration.

eMarketer’s time spent estimates are weighted for the total UK adult population. The numbers reflect two broad inputs—penetration levels of different devices (TVs, smartphones, and so forth), and, among those who use the devices, how much time is spent per user. So, for example, if a particular device is used by 50% of the total population, and those users spend 1 hour per day with the device, then the weighted time spent on that device for the total population would be 30 minutes.

It’s important to note that, for marketers, “time spent with media” is at best an incomplete measurement. From a marketer’s perspective, a user who spends 1 hour reading and writing email on a mobile device has little in common with one who watches television for the same amount of time.

In addition, eMarketer’s “time spent” estimates reflect blurring lines of media consumption. As in other markets, UK consumers are accessing traditional content on nontraditional channels—for example, television programming viewed on a tablet. In many instances, this may “count” as time spent on a digital device, but it reflects the fact that consumption of television content actually is rising thanks to a variety of nontraditional options that users have for watching TV and TV-like content.

eMarketer bases all of our forecasts on a multipronged approach that focuses on both worldwide and local trends in the economy, technology and population, along with company-, product-, country- and demographic-specific trends, and trends in specific consumer behaviors. We analyze quantitative and qualitative data from a variety of research firms, government agencies, media outlets and company reports, weighting each piece of information based on methodology and soundness.

In addition, every element of each eMarketer forecast fits within the larger matrix of all our forecasts, with the same assumptions and general framework used to project figures in a wide variety of areas. Regular re-evaluation of each forecast means those assumptions and framework are constantly updated to reflect new market developments and other trends.

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