What Are TV Multitaskers Doing in the UK?

Ofcom-TV-Multitasking-in-the-UK-Aug2013Ofcom has released its latest Communications Market report for the UK, a wide-ranging, expansive study containing a treasure trove of interesting data. Among the various pieces of primary research trotted out in the report, Ofcom takes a look at the media multi-tasking habits of the UK population, in particular “media meshing” (TV multitasking that involves program-related activities) and “media stacking” behaviors (unrelated activities). These behaviors have been the subject of interest among researchers studying Americans’ activities, so it’s useful to take a look to see how things are in the UK.

The first point to note is that media stacking is more common than media meshing, with 49% of UK adults engaging in the former on a weekly basis, compared to 25% for the latter. That finding is consistent with US adults, who multitask more often with unrelated than related content.

Media Meshing Behavior

So what kinds of program-related activities are UK adults doing while watching TV? Among TV viewers, the most common behaviors are:

  • Sending/receiving a text or instant message to/from friends or family about the program, with 17% having done this at some point;
  • Making/receiving phone/voice calls to/from friends or family about the program (16%);
  • Looking online for info about a program or something/someone seen in a program (12%); and
  • Social networked to read/post/like/tweet/follow/interact/engage with a program (11%).

A little further down the list, 7% said they’ve looked online for information about an ad.

Overall, 23% said their multitasking involves direct communication with friends and family, while 15% each said any social networking and any looking online for information.

Media Stacking Behavior

As mentioned above, media stacking behavior is more common with 59% of TV viewers having ever engaged in unrelated activities while watching TV. The most common of those?

  • Browsing the internet (36%);
  • Having a phone/voice/video call (29%);
  • Sending or reading emails (24%);
  • Sending or receiving a text or instant message (23%); and
  • Using social networking sites (22%).

In general, media stacking is a more frequent activity than media meshing. 60% of “stackers” say they do so daily, compared to 47% of “mashers.”

Demographics of TV Multi-taskers

The Ofcom study also provides some demographic profiles of multitaskers. While on average 53% of adults multitask on a weekly basis, some groups are more likely to do so than others:

  • Females are slightly more likely than males (56% vs. 51%);
  • The 16-24 age group is almost three times as likely than the 65+ group to do so (74% vs. 25%); and
  • Those with children are about 40% more likely than those without children to (66% vs. 47%).

There’s a similar profile among weekly media meshers, with females (26%) slightly more likely to do so than males (23%), the 16-24 age group (44%) far ahead of the age group (25-34; 31%) and those with children (30%) more likely than those without (22%).

The same patterns apply among weekly media stackers.

Overall, 62% of all UK adults say they’ve engaged with any type of multitasking while in front of the TV. That 62% is split into 26% who are only media stackers, 6% who are only media meshers, and 30% who do both.

About the Data: The data is based on the Ofcom omnibus survey fielded in 2013 among 4,185 UK adults.

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