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In the UK, More Screens Mean More Fragmented Viewing Behavior

Smartphones and tablets are latest devices to disrupt traditional viewing patterns

There are more screens in the average UK household than ever before, but single-function devices are getting pushed to the periphery, according to a new eMarketer report, “The UK Multiscreen Household: TV Still Central in the Multidevice Mix.”

eMarketer defines a screen as an electronic display device used for the consumption of some manner of content (video, gaming, written text and so forth).

Estimates of how many screens one is likely to see in the average UK household vary from four to six. According to Specific Media and Research Now, the average number of connected devices in the UK household in 2012 was 5.5; however, this figure included devices such as connected game consoles, which don’t have dedicated screens.

What are UK consumers’ multiscreen behaviors? And just how fragmented is the consumer experience in the average UK household?

TV still tops the list of media activities for UK internet users, however audience sizes have shrunk substantially. In terms of pervasiveness in the consumer household, PCs and laptops come second only to TVs. According to Ipsos MediaCT, PC/laptop ownership in the UK stood at 75% as of November 2012.

But this is partially historical; desktops and laptops have been the second screen for many years now. Only recently have smartphones and tablets become credible screen alternatives or accompaniments to the TV, causing the latest upheaval in household media consumption behavior.

Smartphones are increasingly widespread, with preliminary eMarketer estimates indicating that 48.6% of the total UK population will have access to such a device at least once per month in 2013. In addition, their ability to be most things for most people has them carving out an interesting niche in the consumer household.

While smartphones aren’t quite big enough to encourage huge uptake of video viewing, what they do offer is “always-on” access to browsing the internet, social networks, playing games and checking emails.

Google, via Ipsos MediaCT, in a February 2012 survey found that 54% of UK smartphone internet users watched TV while surfing the web via their phone.

While tablets are not nearly as well penetrated as smartphones, their popularity can be explained, in large part, by their suitability for content consumption in the home environment.

Evidence from the IAB UK indicated that growth in UK video viewing via tablet devices is outstripping growth in viewing on any other screen type.

Of course, TV remains the core content consumption device in the home; however, tablets may soon become the preferred dual-screen accompaniment.


The full report, “The UK Multiscreen Household: TV Still Central in the Multidevice Mix” also answers these key questions:

  • How many screens are there in the average UK consumer household, and does any single one dominate?
  • How are consumers using each of these screens?
  • What are the prevailing trends shaping the landscape of the consumer home?

This report is available to eMarketer corporate subscription clients only. eMarketer clients, log in and view the report now.


Check out today’s other articles, “Which Content Marketing Tactics Get the Best ROI?” and “Spirits Brands Slow in Digital Space.”

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