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Mobes, fondleslabs, web sending Brit families back to THE FIFTIES - Ofcom

Smoking pipes, cardigans and plastic-clad credenza to follow

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Broadcasting watchdog Ofcom's latest research shows living-room TV watching is on the rise: picture families gathering round in front of the goggle box even if half their eyes are elsewhere.

The living room is regaining its dominant position as the nerve-centre of TV viewing for families - as fondleable tablets and phones replace tellies in bedrooms. Parents and children meet to sit, ignore each other, see what's on the television, play a quick game of Candy Crush and keep up to date with Facebook.

Every year Ofcom interviews about 4,000 British adults, asking them about their media consumption habits, then combines that with industry data and its own figures to create an annual picture of what, and how, we're all consuming.

Nine in ten UK adults, for example, watch the TV in their living room at least once a week, and 90 per cent of TV viewing remains live, we're told.

That will surprise many El Reg readers who've long switched to modern video recorders and on-demand services, but nationally they're in a minority. That becomes less remarkable when one realises that almost half of the living-room viewers are doing something entirely unrelated on their handsets while the TV remains on.

This is "multitasking", or "doing two things badly" as it's more-accurately described. Fortunately, those two things are typically watching EastEnders and posting to Facebook so the quality of one's application isn't important, and modern TV programmes reiterate the plot every few minutes so there's no chance of missing anything important.

Think of the children!

Having kids makes one more likely to multitask in front of the TV: 66 per cent of parents succumb to the distraction, perhaps because there are only so many seconds of Power Rangers [is that still even a thing? sub-ed] one can stomach before the importance of checking one's email becomes overwhelming.

Among those without children it's women who are more prepared to give their selected TV show less attention: 56 per cent admitted they regularly looked away compared to just over half of men.

A quarter of TV viewers are paying more attention, having used their second, smaller screen to do something related to the show they're watching. 16 per cent chatted on the phone to someone else (which must be a delight for those sharing the room), while three per cent interacted digitally with the show in some way, sharing the experience with other viewers if not with those immediately around them.

Financially, the TV world is doing OK from this change; advertising revenue is down two per cent on last year, but subscriptions avoided a plunge: the industry's takings were up 0.8 per cent year on year to £12.3bn for the year.

The growth of tablets and smartphones is hurting sales of second sets, but big screens and so-called smart TVs are making up the loss: seven per cent of the UK has a smart telly and a whopping 77 per cent of those who've shelled out for intelligence managed to get their sets plugged into the internet. That might not sound remarkable to a technically literate crowd, but for the internet industry it's a very good sign.

Ofcom's assertion that we're returning to the living room of the 1950s is slightly misplaced. Broadcast coverage back then was akin to 4G telephony today, only much more expensive, and most families were still gathering round the radio or listening to father read selected stories from the day's paper.

But the trend towards more devices and closer physical proximity is interesting, and backed up by a plethora of facts and figures in the Ofcom annual survey. ®

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