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Monday 1 December 2008

The UK recession: one way out

After being without the internet at home for a while, I sure know I'd rather have it than a car. And it seems I'm not alone - in fact most Brits feel the same way according to a new survey by AMD.

The average Briton would rather have access to the internet than a car or washing machine, according to a new survey.

The research, from technology company AMD, looked into British notebook usage and connectivity, and found that getting online for many has become essential, in particular for ‘Generation Y’, with 90% of 18-24 year olds owning a notebook and 73% going so far as to say they ‘couldn’t live without’ it.

In addition, Britons consider access to the Internet (67%) as more important than access to a car (54%) or a washing machine (58%).

And in another report, this sounds like a good choice as the only sector likely to stay steady or even grow in a recession is ... the web and digital media. And here the UK is doing well.
The UK leads a table of 12 industrialised nations when it comes to embracing digital technology, according to a new report from communications watchdog Ofcom.

The report also indicates at the Irish spend most time on their mobiles, while the Poles spend the most time listening to the radio.

Significantly, the research also uncovered that more women than men use the internet.

The Ofcom research reveals that UK consumers are embracing new digital TV services, such as High Definition TV and Digital Video Recorders, alongside many other leading economies across the world.

These services give UK consumers a much greater choice of TV channels with sharper pictures and the ability to record, store, pause and fast-forward programmes.

Ofcom's third International Communications Market Report into the £876 billion global communications market also looks at take-up, availability and use of broadband, landlines and mobiles, TV and radio in 12 established industrial economies and in four fast growing economies: Brazil, Russia, India and China.

Covering 2007, the report finds that UK consumers are getting a good deal for their money when buying communications services compared with people in other countries.

Digital TV take-up

Of the larger countries surveyed, the UK has more households with digital TV on their main set, at 86 per cent, up 9 per cent on the previous year as switchover gets underway here.

This compares with the US where 70 per cent of households have a digital TV, up 15 per cent over the past 12 months. France was next at 66 per cent of households with digital TV, and it had the highest growth during the period - an increase of 25 per cent.

High Definition

Consumers across the 7 main countries we surveyed are also making more sophisticated choices. High Definition (HD) services were relatively new in 2006 but now take-up of HD subscriptions has been huge, especially in the UK, US and Canada. Take-up doubled during 2007 to around 9 million subscribers across the 7 larger countries surveyed.

Although the US has the highest number of households with HD subscriptions at 6 million (6.2 per cent) the number of HD households in Canada is nearly 2 million, representing 17.6 per cent of households. The UK leads Europe with 700,000 HD households (6 per cent), higher than the combined number of HD households in France, Germany and Italy (500,000).

Digital Video Recorders

More households are choosing to pause, record, store and fast-forward TV programmes with a Digital Video Recorder (DVR). Ofcom's report shows that the UK leads the way with 30 per cent of people saying they own a DVR. The recorders are also popular in Italy (21 per cent), Canada and the US (20 per cent) and least popular in Japan (7 per cent). Across the seven largest countries, around 28 million pay-TV homes had a DVR in 2007, up from 14 million on the previous year.

According to price comparison research commissioned for the report, consumers in the UK continue to get a good deal when buying communications services. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, competitive markets are driving prices down and, secondly, consumers are shopping around for good deals through 'bundling' - taking multiple services from single communications providers.

The lowest prices for consumers, outside the US, are available when some services are bought in a 'bundle' from the same provider. A typical basket of services which includes a landline, four mobile phones, basic pay-TV and broadband is available in the UK for £104 a month when they are purchased together within a 'triple-play' deal, with Italy offering the next lowest price at £114, and then France at £131.

When these services are bought separately, the lowest prices a typical family will pay are in Italy (£116 a month), followed by the UK (£123). The same basket is £144 in France, £153 in Germany, £188 in the US and £248 in Spain.

The take-up of these new services is having an impact on traditional industry revenues as consumer behaviour changes.

With the growing popularity of pay television services, and the rising take-up of DVRs, advertising revenues no longer account for the main source of commercial TV funding. Advertising accounted for 49 per cent (£81 billion) down from 50 per cent on last year, while subscription revenues were at 43 per cent (£71 billion) - up by 2 per cent on the year.

Some 60 years since the first TV advertisement was aired in the US, subscription revenues overtook advertising revenues in the US for the first time in 2007 (£111 compared to £110 per person).

Advertising is increasingly shifting online. In the UK, online advertising accounted for £1 in every £5 of advertising (19 per cent) - the highest among the countries surveyed and up by a third in 2006. Sweden followed at 17 per cent (up from 13 per cent) with the USA next on 13 per cent (up from 10 per cent).

People spent less time making fixed-line voice calls in 2007 than in 2006 in every country covered by the report as people increasingly used mobile phones. In the UK, people spent five minutes less per head making calls on a fixed line in 2007 than in the previous year, but 23 minutes longer making mobile calls.

  • People in all the countries surveyed are spending much more time online. The US leads the way at just over 15 hours per week in 2007 - up from 11 hours in 2004. The UK is second at nearly 14 hours per week, an increase of nearly 6.5 hours a week in 2004, the highest increase amongst the countries surveyed.
  • The US and UK are also leading the trend of watching TV online. People in the US watched nearly 26 TV programmes per person in 2007, more than three times higher than in the UK with nearly 8 TV downloads per person. This increase has been driven by popular free to view TV (including the iPlayer in the UK, and the recently launched Hulu service in the US).
  • Canadians remain in the vanguard of social networking with 55 per cent of internet users visiting a social networking site. Half of UK internet users (50 per cent) accessed a social networking site, an 11 per cent increase since 2007.
  • Across all the countries surveyed, more women than men are using the internet. Some 56 per cent of Italian women use the internet compared to 44 per cent of Italian men. Japanese and Spanish women follow at 55 per cent, with the UK and France having an equal gender split. Women in the US are bucking this trend, at 48 per cent compared with 52 per cent of men using the internet.

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