Live TV viewing drops

We are watching more on connected devices, but less Live TV on home television sets.

The number of hours we sit on the couch to watch Live TV continues to decline.

In 2015 we watched 77:57 hrs per month of Live Free to Air + Pay TV on in-home TV sets.

Now that figure is 66:38 hrs -a loss of over 11 hours in 2 years. Concerningly, 6 of those hours were lost over the last year alone.

The latest results of the Australian Multi-Screen Report for Q4 2017 (Oct- Dec) indicate viewing is steadiest amongst those aged 65 and over but elsewhere there are significant shifts.

Teens are watching 7 hours less Live TV than a year ago, those aged 18-24 watched nearly 5 hrs less, 25-34 around 6 hrs less, 35-49 nearly 8 hrs less, 50-64 watched 7 hrs less and 65+ viewed around 1hr less.

Watching TV timeshifted within 7 days also dipped in the last 12 months, from 6:51 hrs a month to 6:37 hrs, but viewing from 8-28 days increased slightly from 1:35 hrs to 1:42 hrs.

Whilst viewing is impacted by seasonal events such as warmer weather, these figures measure Q4 over comparative years.

By contrast, as the number of Smart TVs and devices rise, we use our TVs  more for other entertainment. In Q4 2017, Australians spent an average of 34:15 hrs each month (primetime 15:28 hrs) for SVOD, gaming, iview, YouTube, music etc. That’s up from 28:43 hrs per month two years ago.

Comparatively, ‘Other Use’ is now more than half the total time of Live viewing Free to Air + Pay TV per month (66:38 hrs).

Meanwhile 18-24 year-olds are the heaviest viewers of online video on desktops / laptops (11:59 hrs per month). This includes broadcast and non-broadcast online streamed video such as YouTube, Facebook, SVOD and catch up services such as iview.

25-34s watch the most on smartphones (12:31 hrs). Across the adult population, people on average spend 6:11 hrs per month watching streamed video on tablets.

OzTAM CEO Doug Peiffer said: “As we delve into changing viewing behaviour, we’re seeing the impact of more screens per person in the average Australian household. Not only does this increase options to view both inside and outside the home, but for some consumers the ability to watch video ‘on the go’ actually creates more time to view. A significant proportion of these consumers are young adults, who spend more time out and and have therefore always been relatively light TV viewers compared to the overall . As they settle down, start families and are at home more often, their TV viewing levels tend to rise – whether co-viewing with their children, a partner or solo.”

Regional TAM Chairman Dave Walker said: “With the increased viewing options and platforms available to Australians, it’s pleasing to see that the in-home television set still accounts for the majority of video viewing. With the growing incidence of smart televisions we have seen an increase in other screen use but it’s important to note that 82.6 per cent of Australians continue to tune into TV each week. Regional Australians in particular spent almost 84 hours watching broadcast television on average each month, which is almost 9 hours more than the national average.”

BROADCAST TV VIEWING ON TV SETS (includes Live + Timeshifted):

o 19.64 million Australians (82.6 per cent of the population in people metered markets) watched broadcast TV (free-to-air and subscription channels) on in-home TV sets each week in Q4 2017.

Australians in all age groups continue to watch TV. For example, across the day 63.1 per cent of 18-24 year-olds – who are relatively light viewers compared to other age groups – watched broadcast TV weekly in the latest quarter.

o Australians watched an average of 74 hours and 58 minutes (74:58) of broadcast TV on in-home TV sets each month in Q4 2017:
o 89 per cent (66:38) was watched live-to-air.
o 8.8 per cent (6:37) was played back within seven days.
o 2.3 per cent (1:42) was time-shifted between eight and 28 days of the original broadcast.

As television sets become increasingly ‘smart’ and multi-functional, they can be used for many purposes in addition to watching live or playing back broadcast TV (‘other TV screen use’).

In Q4 2017 other TV screen use accounted for 31 per cent of Australians’ time with their sets (34:15 per month). In prime time the proportion was 29 per cent (15:28).


o Australians aged 18+ now spend on average 21:36 per month watching online video on a desktop, laptop, smartphone or tablet.
People aged 18-24 watch the most video in aggregate on connected devices (31:05 per month) while people aged 65+ watch the least (6:38).
o 25-34 year-olds are the heaviest viewers on smartphones (12:31 per month), while 18- 24s watch the most on desktops/laptops (11:59). Across the adult population, Australians on average spend 6:11 per month watching streamed video on tablets.


o On average, Australian homes have 6.6 screens each (6.4 in Q4 2016).
o 58% of homes have PVRs; 17% have two or more (59%; 18% in Q4 2016).
o 43% of homes have internet-capable TVs, whether connected or not (Q4 2016: 37%). Within those homes, 72% of internet-capable TVs are connected, equating to 31% across all TV households.
o 50% of homes have tablets (level with Q4 2016).
o 84% of households have one or more smartphones (81% in Q4 2016).
o 98% of Australian television homes can access digital terrestrial television (DTT) channels on every household TV set. 97% can receive high definition (HD) DTT broadcasts on all TV sets in the home.
o Household internet penetration is stable at 80%.

29 Responses

  1. Ahhh the calls make sense now. We are a ‘box’ family and have recieved a couple of calls double checking we are remembering to sign on. Our viewing habits have transitioned away from the tv. Some days I find myself not even switching it on.

  2. We’ve stopped watching FTV now for about 2 years. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Not keen on sport, so content simply became unappealing and time too precious to commit to reality trash and other el cheapo TV (mostly anything with food, renovating, singing, or people dissing each other).
    Netflix, however is full steam ahead for us – the set that it is connected to has no aerial point nearby…
    Pay TV has the most to lose, FTA might just reinvent itself – but I wouldn’t want to be paying the sort of money that alllows access to the very ordinary content available on Pay.

    1. I myself don’t have pay TV, but lately I have been doing house sitting and many of these houses have Foxtel. I am constantly amazed at how little new and interesting content is on Foxtel. Even at its reduced fees Foxtel is way overpriced. Sport and to a lesser extent News is its mainstay. Movies are mostly old and not that appealing.

  3. For a fair time to come, there will be a financial consideration. The bottom line is that FTA is free (for the minute cost of the electricity) while everything else requires an ongoing financial commitment.

    That amount might seem trivial to middle-class Australia (who are more likely to comment on forums!) but for a large portion of social-media invisible people, that is a luxury that would reduce their food budget. It is important to remember that commenters here are not fully representative of Australia as a whole.

  4. I have watched, at best, 5 hours of live FTA over the past 6 years, and they were all David Rabbitborough. I am also over 65. I don’t have time for the abysmal fare (fair?) offered up by 7/9/10 as ‘entertainment’.

  5. There’s probably about 4 shows I watch live on commercial FTA: 60 Minutes or Sunday Night, NCIS, Gogglebox. 3 of these 4 are on the weekend when I have more time. Otherwise, the rest of my live viewing is ABC – news and Wednesday nights. Everything else I record Or stream on catch up. Primary reasons for recording / catch up? avoiding ads (or less on FTA catch up anyway) & not in the position to watch live.

  6. Looking back at 10 years of raw viewer #’s (not ratings %) is interesting, esp. if you figure in the ~20% pop. growth. Thanks to split coding /timeshift/etc it’s hard to give exact #s, but it boils down to:

    – Event TV (e.g. grand finals, etc) #s have increased by ~5%, much less than pop. growth.
    – Variety & reality TV “events” (live finale/winner revealed, etc) are up ~35%, much more than pop. growth
    – Everything else – regular variety/reality series episodes, news & CA, comedy, documentary, etc – is stagnant at 2007 figures or falling.
    – And the 2017 numbers include streaming/catch-up/etc, which 2007 didn’t.

    So apart from maybe live & big event TV (which get little boost from catch-up), the number of people watching traditional broadcast TV has fallen by 20% or more in real terms. Which explains a lot about the TV landscape this decade…

  7. I don’t watch anything on other devices. The TV is big in size and doesn’t hurt the eyes. Its more comfortable to sit in a comfy chair or lay on a lounge. I can’t imagine watching a tv show on a small lap top or phone. I quite like the ‘off channels’ the best with the older shows and content not available elsewhere. I hope TV itself never dies out. Already so much as been taken away from the oldies, even crossword type books are mostly bought from the ‘junk’ shops because they have variety. Paper books I buy online or from second hand shops. I can’t imagine sitting with some cold, hard device reading a story.

  8. I think the time periods reserved for watching TV are becoming saturated by too much content, those who use phones for streaming do so when time allows,usually when travelling to and from work on a train or bus and not necessarily at home. Dedicated FTA viewers watch ‘reality’ because they have been conditioned by commercial TV over the years and will remain loyal to one major channel or another as habit demands,the time to indulge in binge watching drama shows before bed time is not always possible.

  9. Well I can only talk about my own experiences, I have two ‘kids’ in the 18 to 24 category at home. The older one, 23, can’t even remember when last I saw her sit in front of the TV to watch a show and no, my memory is not that bad but we are talking years! The 20 year old, he will watch the odd live sport with me but other than that nothing. Me? Well I am watching more and more on streaming as well but will watch live when at home and the show actually starts on time…

  10. I’ve got a theory as to whats going on – it’s a perfect storm of cost, demand and supply.
    TL;DR Supply is not there for the demand of new concepts in FTA. Cost of TVs is huge compared to cost of tablets/phones. Of course we’ll go with the cheaper option!

    TVs are becoming more expensive as tech companies try to justify new technology. Brands we trust for TVs (like Panasonic, Phillips, Sony, LG) have either packed up shop or left. Others have taken their place; but consumers don’t necessarily trust those brands (TCL, HiSense,etc). And they’re still pretty expensive compared to a cheap phone but the phone will have a more optimised viewing experience.
    Kids have now had access to tablet computing for almost a decade. Pretty much everyone owns a smartphone. We are a generation also used to having options.
    As everyone else has said, FTA is struggling to provide ‘new’ concepts…

    1. Free to Air is not struggling to supply new concepts. As Caroline Spencer said in the session she is constantly pitching projects (and constantly receiving pitches) but the reality is most do not get up. That’s just the hit ratio the industry has always faced. What is new is the globalisation of obscure titles getting deals, together with diminishing timeslots on FTA as stripped reality dominates. Streaming offers new opportunities however.

      1. Hmm, as a Millennial (god hate that term) I’d disagree – Spartan, Family Food Fight, Bachelor in Paradise, Date night, Rove’s Movie show to name a few. Cool, they may put a spin on concepts but they’re not necessarily appealing.

        Agree with your statement – wonder whicj network will try to do a deal with Netflix first? 😉

    2. TV are cheap, unless you want state of the art OLED 4k; $600 will get you a decent sized quality LED with a Chromecast. What’s happening is Over The Top Services, especially Netflix. This allows people to watch what they want, when they want on their own device without having to worry about what other people want to watch on the TV. It produces a long tail/small head. The effectively infinite number of choices, most of which are watched by a small number of people delivering a small margin, and small number of popular shows watched by a large number of people where all the money is made e.g. MAFA, The Good Doctor, Ninja, News and popular sports. And if you don’t have some of those you can’t promote the rest of your lineup amongst all the other alternatives. Just like radio, TV isn’t going to die, but it isn’t going to be what the whole family sits around in the evenings.

      1. $350 gets me a secondhand iPad with Retina Display. I’m an ex uni student, with a barista job so virtually no income – if I was buying anything I’d be buying an iPad as my main device.

        Definitely don’t think TV will die, it’s just that the networks need to lower their expectations and try to appeal to everyone more. Simples

  11. Regional TAM Chairman Dave Walker said: “With the increased viewing options and platforms available to Australians, it’s pleasing to see that the in-home television set still accounts for the majority of video viewing.

    Why does he find that “pleasing”? It should be pleasing that the majority of people still watch some free to air TV at all, especially in younger age groups.

    We already know that 7 will introduce a paid service to 7Plus later this year (removes ads, adds HD, adds offline downloads) and I believe that all the networks will go that way eventually to compete with Netflix & other SVOD.

    In terms of ad revenue, the networks will still get their fair share as people like free and there will always be people happy to watch the ads, but there are other people (like me) who would much rather pay my dollars.

  12. I watch a few shows live every night, but there is usually shows on at the same time that I want to watch on other channels most nights so I have to tape them & watch back later.
    I really don’t get why anyone would want to watch a TV show or movie on a tiny phone or tablet when you can get 50 inch TV’s these days. How can you even see anything on them?
    I just bought a smart TV recently but haven’t figured out how to get the internet on it yet.

    1. why? probably mostly because of time constraints, people can watch tv on the go on their devices, people don’t have time to watch all they want to while sitting on the couch….

    2. Your holding a phone or tablet much closer to your face, so if anything, it’s actually more immersive than watching on a big screen at home. As your hands are holding the devfice, it’s also distraction free and can help if your the type of person who likes to eat, smoke or drink booze while watching TV on the couch and you are trying to cut back on those habits.
      It’s a great use of time on public transport, I see people watching TV on their phones all the time now

      1. so far last week, i encountered …… 3 people watching on their phones, 1walked off the curb and twisted an ankle, another split an eye open walking into a power pole?……… the other walked into several people and nearly got hit by a car…….. not exactly good for ones health!

  13. Interesting article
    Question, is this blog named after the device – television, or with reference to television channels?
    With movement away from both, is the name TVTonight still a good name for this blog and representation of where and what we watch?

  14. I would say the main reason why I’m watching less live TV now is mainly due to the fact that almost every single night, the exact same shows are on. So, if you don’t like any of those shows, you simply go looking for other things to do or different platforms to view things on (Netflix, youtube etc). I miss the days when the commercial networks had different programming on every night, as opposed to 5 nights in a row of MKR.

    1. Get off those main channels? There is different stuff on every night on 7Two, 7mate, 7Flix, 9GEM, 9GO, 9Life, 11, One, etc and don’t be scared of ABC/SBS too – there is so much great content on there now, especially SBS, which most people just ignore because they think it’s “ethnic” and not for them which couldn’t be further from the truth.
      The catch up platforms have so much content, you could spend a whole year just watching things from 9now, 7plus, tenplay and not see a single episode of MKR, married at first sight, I’m a celeb and so on.
      ABC and SBS on demand have thousands of hours of great shows you’ve probably never heard of too.

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