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Living Room Now Digital Media Hub

18:10 Fri Aug 2 2013

The traditional British living room has been transformed into a digital media hub where the household watches television while multi-tasking via tablets and smartphones, a new report says.

British households are increasingly reverting to just one television, and 91 per cent of adults tune in to the main set in the living room at least once a week, up from 88 per cent in 2002, according to Ofcom's annual "state of the nation" report.

But more than half of viewers (53 per cent) regularly multi-task by streaming videos, sending instant messages and updating their social media status following a "huge growth" in tablet and smartphone ownership.

A quarter of viewers (25 per cent) are regularly "media meshing" - using devices to communicate about the program they are watching - while 49 per cent engage in "media stacking" to carry out completely unrelated activities such as social networking or online shopping.

Ofcom said media meshing was seen during this year's Wimbledon men's tennis final, when 1.1 million people worldwide tweeted 2.6 million times using associated hashtags.

These activities are mostly carried out on smartphones, with over half of adults (51 per cent) now owning the devices, up from 27 per cent two years ago.

Tablet ownership has more than doubled in the past year, increasing from 11 per cent of households to 24 per cent.

The majority of parents with a tablet (91 per cent) say their children use it or have one of their own.

The average household now owns more than three types of internet-enabled device, with one in five owning six or more, the communications regulator said.

The study found the number of households with just one television has increased from 35 per cent in 2002 to 41 per cent in 2012, with the number of five to 15-year-olds with a television in their bedroom dropping from 69 per cent in 2007 to 52 per cent in the first quarter of this year.

Live television accounted for 90 per cent of all viewing in 2012, with the average viewer watching just over four hours a day -15 minutes more than in 2008.

Viewers are also using bigger screens in the living room, with "jumbo" sets accounting for 15.8 per cent of sales in the first quarter of this year, up 4.3 per cent on 2012.

Ofcom's director of research, James Thickett, said: "Our research shows that increasingly families are gathering in the living room to watch TV just as they were in the 1950s - but now delivered on bigger, wider and more sophisticated sets.

"Unlike the 1950s family, however, they are also doing their own thing. They are tweeting about a TV show, surfing the net or watching different content altogether on a tablet.

"Just a few years ago, we would be talking about last night's TV at work or at school. Now, we're having those conversations live while watching TV - using social media, text and instant messaging."

The report also reveals that internet-based forms of communication such as email, instant messaging and social networking are now more popular than texting among younger people, with 84 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds using at least one of these methods on a weekly basis compared with 80 per cent who text.

Ofcom surveyed 3700 UK respondents aged 16 and over.