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Smart TVs Make Slow Progress in the UK

Smart TVs struggle to stand out

March 24, 2015

UK consumers are usually quick to adopt new digital technologies. Growth in smart TV penetration is sluggish, though. According to data from YouGov, only 29% of UK consumers ages 16 and older had access to a smart TV at home as of January 2015. This was up just 4 percentage points from the same period in 2014.

UK Internet-Enabled/Smart TV Penetration, Jan 2014 & Jan 2015 (% of respondents)

The relatively long replacement cycles for TV sets—at least compared with other digital technologies, like smartphones—may be playing a part in this trend. However, something else that smart TVs have to contend with is an already crowded marketplace for digital video viewing options.

A December 2014 report from the UK’s Office of Communications, with research conducted by Ipsos MORI, illustrated just how much competition existed, and particularly how far down the pecking order smart TVs currently sat.

Devices Used by UK Digital Video-on-Demand (VOD) Viewers to View Digital TV/Film, Aug 2014 (% of respondents)

It found that, among UK digital video-on-demand viewers polled in August 2014, 65% used a set-top box to view digital TV or film. The second most popular device was a desktop or laptop computer, cited by 35% of respondents, and third was tablets (25%). Smart TVs were used by just 19% of respondents, tied with smartphones.

November 2014 research from Decipher did at least point to a positive trend, albeit one lacking any great significance. Here, the proportion of monthly digital video viewers using a smart TV (or smart Blu-ray player) in the UK had doubled between Q3 2012 and Q3 2014. However, an increase from 6% to 12% was not earth-shattering news. Nor was the fact that smart TVs propped up the league table for devices—in this study, even smartphones were more popular.

UK Monthly Digital Video Viewers, by Device, Q3 2012-Q3 2014 (% of respondents)

The number of options on offer to digital video viewers are in plentiful supply. Smart TV makers will need to make a compelling case if they are to see a marked increase in user numbers.

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