We Watch TV On Our Own Terms

We Watch TV On Our Own Terms

We can’t trust commercial TV networks to actually run shows according to a schedule, but increasingly we don’t have to care anyway. A raft of data released this week highlights that while we’re as keen on watching TV content as ever, we’d increasingly rather get it online and look at it on a variety of screens than be chained to a network’s plans.

Picture by Adam Berry/Getty Images

The Australian Multi-Screen Report, commissioned by ratings provider OzTAM, suggests that we’re still very keen on ‘traditional’ TV, with the average Australian watching 99 hours and 9 minutes on the ‘big screen’. That’s much higher than the comparable figures for watching online video (3 hours and 58 minutes) or on a mobile phone (1 hour and 20 minutes).

However, since the TV viewing figures are based on broadcasts, they don’t include DVD playback or stuff we’ve accessed through torrents or other channels. The study also suggests we spend an additional 7 hours and 13 minutes watching ‘playback’ TV, but it isn’t clear that this includes anything other than material recorded on a PVR. That’s a likely scenario; 49 per cent of Australian homes have one. Some types of viewing are deliberately excluded, most notably ‘adult’ material.

A different perspective on the same issue comes from the Online Video Content Services In Australia report commissioned by the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA). That study found that 43 per cent of Australians had accessed some form of professionally-produced online broadcast service in the six months to June 2012. TV shows were the most popular choice (61 per cent) followed by films (32 per cent). In June 2012, 11 per cent of those surveyed used a catch-up TV service, with the ABC’s excellent iView deservedly the most popular choice. IPTV alternatives such as FetchTV are less used; by ACMA’s calculations, just five per cent of Australian households with an internet connection use such a service.

One reason ACMA suggests for the relative popularity of catch-up compared to IPTV is a lack of awareness. While 51 per cent surveyed had heard of catch-up TV, a lower 38 per cent were aware of IPTV. A simpler explanation is that we’re cheap. Catch-up TV is free; IPTV requires payment. We might be prepared to cough up for pay TV for sporting events, but paying for TV otherwise still feels like a big ask.

If we are paying, we’re likely to want to view those services on more than one screen. 19 per cent of us own at least one tablet, according to the OzTAm study. When it comes to catch-up, big-screen TVs run a distant third behind laptops and desktop computers. Check the infographic below for additional details.

Lifehacker’s weekly Streaming column looks at how technology is keeping us entertained.


  • Hi,

    I understand the percentages in the ACMA data but wonder about the context of figures such as ’99 hours and 9 minutes’. Do you mean per week, per month, per year?



  • The numbers don’t make sense. How can you say the average Australian watches 99 hours of TV, without a “per X” at the end? It’s like saying “The average person consumes one litre of water” without adding “per day” at the end.

    99 hours over an entire human life isn’t very much at all.

  • I personally haven’t watched tv in about 5 years due to the ability to watch what I want, where I want as well as life’s time constraints I don’t have time to sit down for an hour and watch a tv show that I can blast through in 40 odd minutes.

  • I have a Nielsen rating box… and my TV spends most of its time playing back downloaded media via various devices.

    They don’t know what i’m watching, specifically, they just know I’m not watching broadcast TV.

    Part of me wishes they could know. Then, TV stations could realise that people are only downloading TV shows because they either a) air them for 3 weeks, decide it’s not popular then replace it with a junk reality show, or b) take 3-6 months to bother to air it after it’s aired overseas.

    I couldn’t care less about ads – they’re a necessary evil – but I don’t want to be waiting months for a show after it’s available, and I’d like to be able to watch a whole series without it being canned.

    Also, there’s almost no Sci-Fi on Australian TV these days – it’s all courtroom drama/cop shows or reality junk. Air the shows people want to see, and they won’t be forced to download them.

    Props at this point to Eleven, who air three Star Trek:TNG episodes a week. It’s about to run out (halfway through season 7) and I hope they follow through with DS9.

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