Anarchy In U.K. TV: Brits Turning To Internet, 3-D Broadcasts

Watching TV on your laptop while chatting with friends, HD and 3-D TV … U.K. viewing habits are changing rapidly, according to a Cisco/Forrester survey. Should TV providers be worried?

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The revolution may not be televised, but the TV revolution is well underway, according to a British survey of ordinary viewers commissioned by Cisco UK and Forrester. Among its main findings: the 16-35 age group is least likely to own a TV, and 60% of them use the Internet at the same time as watching TV (whether on a separate screen or their laptop). HDTV is fast becoming mainstream. Some 57% of households are now watching it. And 43% of younger users are eagerly awaiting 3-D TV, as championed by satellite broadcaster Sky, which is currently on a mission to bring it into U.K. households. (The survey took place before Sky started its big 3-D ad campaign, so the number may now be higher).

Until now, the few firms that pipe content (not to be confused with those who create the content) to TV audiences in Britain have held the whip hand. But now, as sofa addicts spend increasing amounts of time zapping and surfing simultaneously, the balance of power may be about to change.

The balkanization of viewing options, and the shift to the Internet may strike fear in the hearts of providers such as Sky TV and BBC. There was majority support amongst those questioned for a pay-per-view model. (While there is no question of canceling the license fee, as the BBC is a sacred cow, it raises questions about levels of funding to the corporation.)

There is, however, a kernel of hope in all the findings for the providers. Improve the quality–that is, make Internet speeds faster, and offer up better-quality TV and video. If all of this is improved, then the majority of those in the younger age group polled said they’d be willing to pay a premium price. As 3-D TV gives way to super HD–the 2K, 4K or 8K versions–there will always be a group of consumers who are excited by technology breakthroughs.

About the author

My writing career has taken me all round the houses over the past decade and a half--from grumpy teens and hungover rock bands in the U.K., where I was born, via celebrity interviews, health, tech and fashion in Madrid and Paris, before returning to London, where I now live. For the past five years I've been writing about technology and innovation for U.S.