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Giant TVs 'bring families together'


Giant TV screens have helped to bring families back together in the living room, new research suggests.

Ofcom's Communications Market Report found that despite competing challenges for recreational time, TV viewing has remained stable.

British viewers spent an average of four hours each day watching TV in 2011, up from 3.6 hours in 2002.

Meanwhile, in the first quarter of this year, more than 35% of TV sets sold were at least 33in in size.

James Thickett, Ofcom's director of research, said larger and flatter TV screens appeared to be bringing children back into the living room, reversing a trend which saw them watching a separate set in their bedroom.

"Television viewing has been robust between 2002 and 2011," he said.

"What's interesting here is that with all these new technologies being adopted by 16 to 24-year-olds and to some extent children, we're not seeing TV viewing among those age groups falling.

"It's always been lower than average for the younger age groups because they have different lifestyles and less time at home. But we're not seeing a major impact on TV viewing by all this extra adoption and use of new technology.

"At the same time we are seeing an increase in viewing among the older age groups."

Some 40% of households had only one TV set in 2011, compared to 35% in 2002.

In 2011, individuals watched around 209 minutes of TV on their main set each day, compared to 187 minutes on a main set in 2002.

Mr Thickett added: "One of the things that has helped drive strong TV viewing figures is the evolution of television technology.

"In the past 10 years we have seen the development of widescreen television, HD television, screens getting flatter and very importantly screens are getting bigger...

"What this is doing is actually bringing people back into the living room and television is taking on a new role as a family experience whereas 10 years ago, in the early 2000s, we were seeing kids, different members of the family watching different television shows in different rooms using different sets.

"The quality of the TV viewing experience has improved, the choice of channels has improved.

"We've now got new technologies like digital video recorders that are improving the television experience. We believe that has all helped to maintain television viewing at around four hours a day."

He said that if younger members of the family did watch different shows, they now tended to use a laptop rather than a different set.

"Kids are now more likely to watch stuff on their computer or on their laptop through the iPlayer rather than go up and watch television," he said.

"The proportion of digitally enabled second TV sets is relatively low compared to the proportion of analogue TV sets say 10 years ago.

"They're not replacing their TVs in their bedrooms. They're relying on laptops or different screens. We're not going to see that mass adoption of TV screens all around the house."

While TV watching has remained stable, the long-term radio listening trend has gone down.

In 2011, UK adults spent 22.5 hours a week listening to the radio, down from 24 hours in 2001. But the figure was up by 24 minutes on 2010.

Among 15- to 24-year-olds, the long-term downwards listening trend was even more pronounced, by 22% compared with 2001.

BBC Radio 4 Extra was the most popular digital-only station, reaching 1.5 million listeners in the first quarter of 2012.

Mr Thickett said: "There has been a gradual decline in listening, being driven primarily by the younger age group.

"While they have remained pretty consistent with their TV viewing their radio viewing has gone down significantly.

"In the future we're likely to see these trends continuing."