Ericsson Charts Changing Usage of TV

The way consumers use television is changing rapidly, with 70 percent of viewers now streaming, downloading, or watching recorded broadcasts on a weekly basis and half accessing on-demand TV or videos via the Internet at least once a week.

Those are among the findings in a new study released Aug. 25 by the ConsumerLab research group at Swedish telecom equipment maker Ericsson (ERIC). Conducted in seven countries (China, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, the U.K., and the U.S.) with a sample representing 300 million people, the survey is part of Ericsson’s ongoing efforts to understand how consumers behave and what they think of telecommunications and media.

The study findings confirm that patterns of media consumption are undergoing a major transformation, thanks especially to the Internet, mobile networks, and the emergence of digital devices such as the Apple (AAPL) iPad tablet.

To be sure, some 93 percent of respondents still watch conventional scheduled TV broadcasts at least once a week. But a growing number are demanding the ability to consume TV content when and where they want it—at a later date, via time-shifting digital video recorders (DVRs) or on-demand services, and on devices other than traditional TVs, such as mobile phones or laptops. In what’s likely good news for gizmos such as the iPad, 37 percent of respondents said they would be interested in using a tablet in conjunction with their TVs.

“Consumption is fragmented and complex,” said Anders Erlandsson, Senior Advisor at Ericsson ConsumerLab, in a press release about the survey findings. “There are few established consumption patterns, and it’s a trial-and-error market with lots of curiosity around it.”

The study identified some anomalies between consumer spending and usage patterns. For instance, respondents shell out an average of €38 ($48) per month for TV services—broadcast (cable, satellite, DSL), pay-per-view, and on-demand. Broadcast accounts for 60 percent of their total outlay, while on-demand is just 37 percent.

Yet of the 25 hours per week, on average, that consumers spend watching TV, only 43 percent is on broadcast or premium services, while 55 percent is time-shifted or on-demand TV. Ericsson argues that this gap in “wallet share” between what customers pay for and how they use TV augurs a shift in future spending patterns that service providers must anticipate and exploit. “It is clear that consumers are not paying for what they use the most,” the company said in its press release.

What are the opportunities highlighted in the survey? Ericsson found that more than 50 percent of respondents would like to connect their PCs to their TVs to watch online video—from sources such as YouTube (GOOG) and others—or to view photos or browse the Web on a larger screen, more comfortably, and with groups of people. Yet making such connections today can be frustratingly complex.

Another key finding: 40 percent of respondents say that “immediate access” to chosen content is very important to them, suggesting a shift from owning videos to accessing programming on demand.

Most importantly, Ericsson says that service providers must devise ways to align consumer spending and usage. Thanks to the “everything should be free” Internet mindset and a growing shift to TV consumption on PCs, traditional service providers risk seeing the value of their offerings diminished. Yet, “if done right,” Ericsson argues, “consumers will reallocate their TV spending to new alternatives.”

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