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Brits love their telly – and are proud of it

Posted May 1, 2015 - Press Releases


It may be on in the background, during dinner or in the small hours of the night, but however and whenever we watch it, Britons love TV.

New research by Freeview looking at our relationship with TV reveals this love affair shows no signs of abating. In the report, National Obsession: our relationship with TV, 52% of Britons say they would describe themselves as TV addicts.

When it comes to what we watch, the research shows that Britons are a conservative bunch, drawn to the same programmes out of habit and routine. Nearly a quarter of those surveyed (24%) said they watch ‘on autopilot’, whilst a further third (33%) admitted that TV provides a sense of structure to their lives. 45% said TV helps them relax or switch off.

Brits are also cautious when choosing new programmes to watch. Whilst one in six (16%) say they will watch a new TV show because of FOMO (fear of missing out) and one in four (25%) because it’s being talked about in the media, many Britons are risk averse, opting for new shows that come recommended by friends or family (43%) or starring their favourite actor (35%).

Crucially, television doesn’t detract from what’s important in life. When Britons miss their favourite programme, it’s most often to spend time with their family (19%) or to socialise with friends (18%).

The research also reveals that some viewers see the television as social glue, because it brings busy families and friends together. More than a quarter of those surveyed (29%) watch television to help bring together family, partners or housemates.

In fact, spending time together in front of the telly is so important that Brits are willing to compromise. Rather than insisting on their own favourite, a third of people (31%) make some kind of compromise or joint decision with family or housemates about what to watch.

Guy North, managing director of Freeview, said:

“Technology is changing how we watch, but we wanted to conduct this research to establish how this has changed our relationship with television.

“Our report shows that Britons love their telly; in fact, many of us are addicted to it. It also plays a valuable social role, not only helping us to relax, unwind and escape, but also bringing people together. In a world of constant tech distractions, long working hours and lots of pressure, those are good benefits.

“Last year, Britain’s longest-running TV soap turned 55; old favourites rule. So it makes sense that when Brits watch new programmes, it’s usually something relatively safe, perhaps with their favourite actor or from a writer they’re familiar with. But it is also interesting to see that one in six watch because of FOMO. Clearly, the programmes you watch can be a bit of a status symbol, and certainly a popular conversation topic.”

Dr Peter Collett, Behavioural Psychologist, said:

“TV viewing is much more than a process of edification and entertainment – it’s also, essentially, a medium for connecting with other people, synchronising one’s own experiences with others and creating a shared emotional space.

“TV also provides an opportunity for the exchange of opinions – a chance to comment on what’s happening on the screen and to hear what the other people present are thinking. TV is therefore a cohesive medium, bringing people together and instilling a sense of community and belonging.”

About the research

Research was carried out in two stages, focussing on entertainment and discounting news and sport, by independent research agency ICM Unlimited.

For the first, qualitative stage, we spoke with 18 pairs of people who live together – be that as parent and child, a couple in a relationship, or housemates – in London, Leeds and Birmingham. Following an in-home task to get them to think about their relationship with TV, the interviews explored a range of topics to establish their personal and household TV viewing habits, from the shows they watch, to what triggers them to try a new programme. All interviews were conducted during August and September 2014.

For the second phase, we conducted a nationally representative online survey of 2,000 UK consumers. All interviews were conducted between 15 and 16 October 2014.





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