Changing viewer habits ‘key trend’ in PSB review, says Ofcom CTO

Steve Unger

Steve Unger

The change in viewing behaviour is “the key trend we’re looking at in our review of public service broadcasting,” according to Ofcom’s chief technology officer Steve Unger.

Speaking at the DTG Summit 2015: Driving Global CollaborVation in London this morning, Unger described a “structural shift” in linear and on-demand viewing as young people increasingly turn to online viewing.

Unger said that traditionally there has been little evidence that viewing figures of traditional TV platforms are in decline, as growth in on-demand services over the last few years have been “largely complimentary to existing platforms – consumers have been watching online content as well as linear TV rather than instead of it.”

However, he said that there is now “an interesting question though as to whether this is starting to change”.

Unger said that while young people typically watch less TV than their elders, in the past they’ve tended to fall into similar viewing habits to their parents as they get older – something that may now be changing as young people increasingly opt for online content rather than linear TV.

“There’s now evidence that young people are taking those habits with them as they grow older. That’s important because it means that instead of having a relatively stable situation with levels of viewing [of] different types of content remaining constant over time as individuals are growing older, we can also now start seeing evidence of a structural shift between linear viewing and on-demand viewing,” said Unger.

Citing Ofcom’s latest ‘Adults’ media use and attitudes Report 2015,’ which was published yesterday, Unger said that a key statistic was that when 16 to 24 year-olds were asked which device they would least like to lose, 59% said their mobile phone, while just 17% responded their TV.

Elsewhere, Unger called for an industry Kitemark for 4K TV that has “cross-industry buy-in” – covering both manufacturers and technology firms as well as broadcasters – to ensure compatibility going forward.

He likened this to Freeview today. “If you buy a Freeview set, you know it will work with certain transmission technologies. If you buy a TV that says Freeview HD on it, you know it will support a different set of compression technologies,” said Unger.

Ofcom published its third review of public service broadcasting television consultation in December and closed submissions from interested parties at the end of February.

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