BBC Study Confirms Tablets’ Growing Role In TV Consumption, But Also That TV Remains Supreme

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Companies like Google, Twitter and Nielsen — who respectively make money from digital advertising, want to make a lot more from digital ads, and get paid to provide data to justify ads online and offline — are putting some significant effort into showing the connection between how consumers watch TV and use their tablets and smartphones to shape that experience in the U.S.. Now the BBC — via its commercial operations of BBC World News TV and BBC.com — is also weighing in, with an international study out from BBC World News and BBC.com looking at how news is consumed today. It shows that the role that tablets are playing in TV usage — which we already knew was strong in the U.S. — is actually an international phenomenon.

The survey, BBC says, polled some 3,600 consumers across Australia, Singapore, India, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Poland, Germany, France and the U.S., the BBC, working with InSites Consulting, says this is the biggest study of its kind. The geographical reach complements the ongoing work from Pew Research Center on digital media usage, which focuses on the U.S. only.

Specifically, the BBC notes that it found the following:

– Some 43% of tablet owners say that they watch more TV now than they did five years ago. 83% say they use tablets alongside TV.

– 25-34 year-old professionals are the biggest “news enthusiasts.” But that enthusiasm is still TV-first, other screens second, with tablets remaining distinctly in a secondary, not primary, role. Across all age groups, 42% of news consumption is still happening on TV, with laptops (29%), smartphones (18%) and tablets (10%) scoring in significance.

– Advertising may be appearing in different formats, but users are not surprised by that. The BBC found that “news audiences expect to see advertising nearly as much on mobile.” The exact figures: 79% tablet and 84% smartphone were unsurprised with ads compared to 87% on TV and 84% online. But response times on mobile are still less good. 1 in 7 users said they responded to a mobile ad in the last four weeks with responses to TV and desktop are 1 in 5 and 1 in 4 respectively.

– TV remains first screen. “In breaking news situations, users turn to television as their primary and first device (42%), with the majority (66%) then turning to the internet to investigate stories further. Users rated national and international news of most importance (84%, 82%), closely followed by local news (79%). Financial and business news (61%) were more highly valued than news about sports (56%) and arts/entertainment news (43%).”

“Avid news consumers are hungry for information wherever they are and expect to stay in touch on all the devices they now own. There’s been speculation for years that mainstream uptake of smartphones, laptops and tablets will have a negative impact on television viewing, but this study has found that the four devices actually work well together, resulting in greater overall consumption rather than having a cannibalising effect,” said Jim Egan, CEO of BBC Global News Ltd, in a statement.

But while these conclusions are definitely interesting and will continue to shape what consumer tech services get rolled out, there are two provisos to note.

The first is that the BBC, like Twitter, Google and Nielsen, has a vested interest in showing how well these services work together. For the BBC, it runs a pretty extensive multi-screen operation. The BBC says its “24-hour news and information channel is available in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide, and over 350 million households and 1.8 million hotel rooms. The channel’s content is also available on 151 cruise ships, 40 airlines and 23 mobile phone networks.” Maximizing advertising across that is a priority.

The second is that the BBC and InSites only talked to consumers that were deemed “high earners” and who already owned at least three of the devices in question: TV, smartphone, tablet and laptop. That effectively skews this survey and demonstrates that although there are some strong correlations, at this point in time, they are only true for a part of the population.