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Smartphones and tablets are making TV more popular

The growing popularity and use of smartphones and tablets is making the living room the hub of our digital lives.

business Updated: Aug 03, 2013 13:35 IST

The growing popularity and use of smartphones and tablets is making the living room the hub of our digital lives.

According to the Ofcom Communications Market Report 2013, the living room is once again the center of modern UK family life and it has mobile technology to thank. The in-depth annual study, that analyzes tech trends and habits across the UK, shows that 91 % of British adults are still drawn to the TV in the lounge at least once a week (up from 81 % in 2012) and that more often than not, as well as friends and family, they have tablets and smartphones to keep them company.

As one of the world's most digitally advanced countries in terms of device ownership, internet connectivity and early gadget adoption, trends that appear in the UK are usually a clear sign of bigger consumer shifts.

Over half of respondents (53%) claim to digitally multitask while the TV is on -- whether it's downloading other content, checking in on social media or browsing the web. Over the past 12 months, smartphone ownership in the UK has jumped from 27 % to 51 % of adults, and tablets can now be found in 24 % of homes up from 11 percent in 2012.

As a result, a quarter (25%) are regularly ‘media meshing' -- doing something else but related to what they're watching on TV, such as chatting on the phone with a friend about what's happening on screen (16%), texting (17%), discussing the show on social media (11%), while 3 percent are already getting into the true sense of the second-screen experience by using apps directly related to the TV content being viewed.

However, as well as meshing, the report also details media stacking, which is basically using other digital devices while watching TV but for totally unrelated reasons with 49 % claiming that they will use a mobile device for web surfing or online shopping or checking in with social media connections while in front of the television.

Yet, the TV is retaining its dominance in modern life, especially as a shared experience -- the average British person still watches over four hours a day. Ofcom found that while the number of internet-connected devices in the average UK household stands at a minimum of three, the number of households with just one television set is rising (35 % in 2012 versus 41 % in 2013).

Yet TV viewing in he UK has never been more popular and the rise of tablet ownership could be one way of explaining why televisions are disappearing from children's bedrooms though viewing figures are still healthy -- 57 % of audiovisual content consumed on tablets is live TV.

At the same time, the living room TV set is growing in size -- 15.8 % of sets bought in the UK over the last 3 months had a 43-inch+ screen, a 4.3 percentage point increase on the same period in 2012.

Of the report, James Thickett, Ofcom's Director of Research, said: "Our research shows that increasingly families are gathering in the living room to watch TV just as they were in the 1950s -- but now delivered on bigger, wider and more sophisticated sets. Unlike the 1950s family, however, they are also doing their own thing. They are tweeting about a TV show, surfing the net or watching different content altogether on a tablet. Just a few years ago, we would be talking about last night's TV at work or at school. Now, we're having those conversations live while watching TV -- using social media, text and instant messaging."