Tech turns our living rooms into digital media hubs

The traditional living room has been transformed into a digital media hub where we watch television while multi-tasking via tablets and smartphones, according to a report

01 Aug 2013


Spend your evenings sat in front of the living room TV with the family while browsing the web via your smartphone and tablet, sending instant messages and posting to Facebook?

Then you're part of a tech revolution which has transformed the humble family living room of our parents and grandparents into a bustling digital media hub.


Ofcom's annual 'state of the nation' report has found families are more likely now to watch TV together than at any time in more than a decade.

Some 91% of adults are now watching the main TV set at least once a week. This is up from 88% in 2002, with an Ofcom spokesperson saying we're now watching on "much bigger, better television sets".

Ofcom said families are coming together in the living room to watch TV "just as they were in the 1950s".

However these days we're multi-tasking while watching the box, tapping away at new smartphones and tablets as we watch the evening's soaps.

Jane Rumble, Ofcom's head of media research, said mobile devices "offer a range of opportunities to do things while we're watching television".

Smartphone And Tablet

More than half of those polled (53%) regularly multi-task while watching TV - streaming videos, sending instant messages and updating their social media status.

The rise of social media means talking about a TV show no longer has to wait 'til the office watercooler the next day.
One in four of those polled say they use their devices to do something related to what they're watching on TV. This is known as media meshing; it could be tweeting about the X Factor, texting about the latest soap cliffhanger or using an app to communicate directly with a programme.

Media stacking, meanwhile, is regularly carried out by nearly half (49%) of those asked. It sees us use devices such as smartphones and tablets to indulge in some retail therapy, update social networks or browse the web while watching TV.

Our TVs are getting bigger, too. Sets measuring 43in (109cm) or above accounted for 15.8% of all TV sales during the first three months of this year, up 4.3% on 2012, according to the report.

The trend for media multi-tasking comes after "huge growth" in tablet and smartphone ownership.

More than half of adults (51%) now use a smartphone, up from 27% just two years ago. Meanwhile, tablet ownership has more than doubled in the past year.

A quarter of households now own a tablet computer, while the average household owns more than three types of internet-enabled device. A fifth of homes own six such devices.

Ofcom's director of research, James Thickett, said: "Our research shows that increasingly families are gathering in the living room to watch TV just as they were in the 1950s - but now delivered on bigger, wider and more sophisticated sets.

"Unlike the 1950s family, however, they are also doing their own thing. They are tweeting about a TV show, surfing the net or watching different content altogether on a tablet.

"Just a few years ago, we would be talking about last night's TV at work or at school. Now, we're having those conversations live while watching TV - using social media, text and instant messaging."

Do you like to tap away on your smartphone or tablet while watchnig the box? Comment below...