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Liz Jaques 

2011 - the year of connected TV?

Televisions

Next year is set to be the year of connected TV, with the launch of YouView and more and more internet-enabled television sets.  However, awareness of IPTV has still not reached mainstream levels, with less than half of the population understanding the latest TV proposition.

According to Kantar Media's new futurePROOF study, connected TV will have a big impact on digital behaviour in 2011, as discussed at MediaTel Group's recent The Internet Comes to TV event.  However, at the moment only 42% of the UK population claim to be aware of connected TV, although the research shows that there has already been a significant shift in behaviour stimulated by the availability of on-demand services on the TV set.

Virgin Media viewers, who already have access to on-demand content via their TV, are more likely to have watched catch-up services on their main TV set (63%) than online (22%) in the last four weeks. The gap is much smaller in Sky homes, where there is not yet a full on-demand service via the TV set (42% via TV, 27% online). In Freeview-only homes, where no on-demand service is available via a TV set, the study shows a greater proportion of people turning to online catch-up services (34%) than in any other type of household.

Trevor Vagg, director of Kantar Media, said: "We see connected TV as a potential 'game changer' in how people are going to be watching TV. The ability to watch streamed online content is not a new concept for consumers but being able to view it on their high-spec TV screen rather than their laptop or tablet will be a no-brainer. Connected TV also has the possibility of really taking the internet into the living room and making it more of a shared experience."

According to the research, 6% of the population have also viewed TV on a mobile or portable device in the last four weeks. YouTube is the most viewed mobile channel, watched by six in ten mobile TV viewers in the last four weeks. This fits with mobile TV viewers' greater likelihood to agree that they would "prefer to be able to choose to watch TV programmes from a variety of channels on one website" (60%) than average (29%).

Despite the rise of digital media, two-thirds of the British population still rate TV as a medium that is most important to them. This figure has grown over the last year by 14%. Internet is the next most important medium (57% agree), followed by radio (44%) and newspapers (38%).   However, people aged under 35 ranked the internet as the one media they would choose, with TV in second place.

This increased importance of TV has coincided with strong growth in uptake of new television technologies, particularly HD and DVRs. The futurePROOF study forecasts that 47% of British homes will have a DVR in 2011, a proportional increase of 10% in the next year. With half of British households already owning an HD-ready TV, futurePROOF shows that the uptake in HDTV services will grow proportionally by 20% in the next year.

"It is interesting to see that, irrespective of the vast media choice consumers have, traditional media still have a considerable role to play in their lives," Vagg added.

Speaking at a breakfast event last week, David Brennan, research and strategy director at Thinkbox, said connected TV and the increasing use of social media actually adds to the current 'traditional' TV experience: "Live, linear TV is benefiting from on-demand TV services and social media. The expanding TV world is actually consolidating viewing around the linear schedules people have always had. The internet has given viewers the ability to catch up with missed shows, to interact in real time via social media, and to even transact while watching."

Meanwhile, at the same event, Channel 4's head of VoD & channel development Sarah Rose said next year will see an increasing number of opportunities to offer viewers a richer and more interactive experience, while not detracting from the more traditional big screen experience.

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