A new study of UK consumers shows that people of all ages are watching video in multiple formats – selecting the method of the moment to match their current needs.

“The Age of Television” research, released today, was conducted by research and strategy consultancy MTM and commissioned by industry body Thinkbox, and is based on analysis of 150 days’ viewing filmed through camera glasses worn by 30 people, and a quantitative study of 6,000 people.

It reveals who’s watching what and when and – crucially for advertisers – why they choose the formats they do.

On average, people in the UK watch nearly five hours a day of video content to satisfy one of eight different “need states”, the Thinkbox study shows. And their choice of format is frequently determined by the particular need they’re satisfying.

The research finds the key reasons we watch TV and video are:
  1. To unwind (26% of viewing time);
  2. As a distraction to fill in time (18%);
  3. For comfort (16%), watching something familiar;
  4. To keep in touch with the outside world (12%);
  5. For the experience (10%) of watching what others are watching or talking about;
  6. To indulge (9%) in personal interests;
  7. For a sense of escape; (7%)
  8. For practical information (2%).
The research shows live TV is great at helping people stay in touch with the world and at creating shared viewing experiences. This explains why it still accounts for 56% of all time spent watching video despite the proliferation of alternatives.

Broadcaster and subscription on-demand TV help us lose ourselves in other worlds, while online video such as YouTube is often the go-to format when people have a little time to kill, and for more practical “how to” needs.

On-demand services account for 15% of the average person’s daily video consumption, but 32% of viewing for escapism. And while YouTube only accounts for 2% of all video time, it accounts for 56% of all “practical” viewing.

The reasons people watch video vary only slightly by age group. Younger people tend to spend more time watching for distraction, and over-55s are more likely to be tuning in because they want to stay in touch with the world.

“Services like Netflix have emerged to super-serve some of our needs when we watch TV,” said Matt Hill, Research and Planning Director at Thinkbox. “But they can’t reach all the places TV can – especially the more social and shared reasons to watch, which are so important to people.”

Sourced from Thinkbox; additional content by WARC staff