Do you media-mesh? Or do you media-stack?  Or both?

Here’s a speed summary of the latest 436 page (!) Ofcom Communications Market Report 2013, a thorough analysis of UK media usage  today – interactive, broadcast, telephony, and mail (free download).  The ‘new’ news is that the UK is a nation of ‘media-meshers’ and ‘media-stackers’ – the two dominant forms of media multi-tasking…

  • 25% are ‘media-meshers’ – we use multiple devices simultaneously to enhance a media experience (e.g. interacting or communicating on a smartphone about TV content being viewed)
  • 49% are ‘media-stackers‘ – we conduct unrelated media tasks while consuming media content
  • Just over half (53%) of all UK adults are regular media multi-taskers i.e. they ‘stack’ or ‘mesh’ while watching TV weekly or more often. One-quarter (25%) of all UK adults regularly engage in media-meshing (interacting or communicating about the TV content they are viewing) and around half (49%) are regularly media-stacking (conducting unrelated media tasks while watching TV). Twenty percent of UK adults claim to do both at least weekly.
  • Tablet owners significantly more likely than average to multi-task with other media while watching TV (81%). Eighty-one per cent of tablet owners multi-task while watching the TV, this compares to 74% among smartphone owners. Tablet owners are ‘meshing’ significantly more than the UK population specifically looking online for programme and advertising information. Tablets also lend themselves to ‘stacking’ and play a significant role in these activities; particularly for email, internet browsing, general social networking, watching AV content and online shopping.
  • Media-Meshing
    • UK adults enjoy getting involved with the programmes they watch on a weekly basis, a quarter either communicating about or interacting with the programme directly. Texting/messaging and making/receiving phone calls about programmes are the most common activities (17% and 16% respectively). In total, just under one-in-four (23%) UK adults have made direct communication with family and/or friends via texts or phone calls about a television programme they are watching.
    • Just over one in ten adults have ever looked online for information about a programme (12%) and have ‘talked about’ a programme using social networks (11%). Participating directly with programmes is a less common activity with one-in-twelve (8%) UK adults claiming to have ever done this either direct (6%) or via a programme app (3%).
    • People who do ‘any’ media meshing are significantly more likely to be female, younger and from the ABC1 social group. There are also more likely to be children in the household. Communicating with friends and family via text/instant message and using social networks to discuss programmes are particularly common activities among 16-34 year olds.
    • Media meshing is a frequent activity: just under half (47%) of ‘meshers’ claim to do so daily. One-quarter (25%) claim to do so several times a day. An additional 25% are media meshing weekly.
  • Media-stacking
    • Media stacking is not only more common than media meshing, but also more frequent. Half (49%) of UK adults claim to conduct other activities while they are watching television on a weekly basis (compared to 25% who ‘media mesh’ on a weekly basis).
    • Internet browsing is the most common activity with over one-third of UK adults (36%) saying they have done this while watching television. Communicating with others either via making/receiving phone calls (29%), sending/reading emails (24%), texting (23%) and social networking/tweeting (22%) are also common activities. Six per cent claim to watch content on a different device (6%) which ties into other data seen elsewhere in this report that shows that people in the same room are often engaged in different activities on different devices at the same time.
    • Men and women engage in media stacking to an equal degree. People who do ‘any’ media stacking while watching television are significantly more likely to younger and from the ABC1 social group. There are also more likely to be children in the household
  • The rising use of tablets 
    • Tablet computer ownership more than doubled in the past year, and half of owners say they now couldn’t live without their tablet. Tablet ownership rose to 24% in Q1 2013. ‘Entertainment’ (50%) was the main reason for purchase, followed by its ability to provide ‘easy access to the internet’, stated by 45% of tablet owners.
    • One in ten households has more than one tablet, and weekly users spend an average of 1 hour and 45 minutes each day on their device. Two-thirds of tablet owners use their device on a daily basis, with two in five using it multiple times during the day. In total just under half (46%) of tablet owners claim to have a 3G-enabled device, but less than half of these (20% of tablet owners) have a mobile subscription enabling 3G connectivity.
    • Tablets are viewed as the main method of connecting to the internet by a third of owners. Among tablet-owning households, this device is now on a par with the laptop as the most important device for connecting to the internet. This is consistent with the rising proportion of web-page views generated from tablets (doubling to 8% in the past 12 months) and the declining proportion generated from PCs and laptops (down by 20pp).
    • Bigger screen’ activities such as watching TV programmes or films are evolving as tablet oriented. Sixty-nine per cent of those who view this type of AV content and have both a tablet and smartphone say they do this more on their tablet. There is also a rising preference for tablets for internet browsing (45%, up from 39%), and watching short video clips (48%, up from 31%) among those who do these types of activities and have both devices.
    • The share of VOD requests coming from tablets increased from 3% to 12% between 2011 and 2012. Just over half (56%) of tablet owners use their device for watching AV content; the most common are streamed TV programmes and films. More than half (57%) of tablet AV content viewers say they watch linear TV on a weekly basis and a similar proportion (54%) say they watch catch-up TV weekly on their tablet.
    • Bedrooms, and main TV rooms, are popular locations to view AV content on a tablet. The most common location for viewing AV content on either a tablet or a smartphone at home is in the bedroom; six in ten tablet owners claim to view content in this location. This is followed by the main TV room (48%). On average, over one in ten (11%) view video content on a tablet in the bathroom, and this is twice as popular among 18-24 year olds (20%).
    • Three in ten tablet AV content viewers share their tablet with their children for TV-type viewing. The large majority (91%) of parents with tablets said their children either use their tablet, or have a tablet of their own to use, for activities other than just watching AV content. Four in five parents said their children used a tablet computer at least weekly, with two in five reporting daily use by their children and 17% saying their children use it more than once a day. A majority (76%) of these parents consider the tablet a useful tool for entertaining and/or educating their children.


















Other Findings

  • The Rise of IM
    • One in five 16-24s agree that it is OK to start a relationship using text-based services. Twenty one per cent of 16-24 year olds agree that it is acceptable to start a relationship through private text-based communication methods (text messages, emails or private messages on social networking sites) and 11% agree that it is acceptable through public communication methods (e.g. posting publicly on social networking sites). Similarly, 30% of 16-24s agree that it is OK to have an argument using private communication methods and 7% agree that it is acceptable to use public communication methods for this. Older respondents were much less likely to consider it acceptable to share this type of information via text-based methods.
    • Web-based text forms are the most popular method of weekly communication among 16-24 year olds (84%) – higher than SMS (80%). The most popular forms of weekly web-based communication among this age group are social networking (66%) and instant messaging (48%), individually each of these are used less than SMS on a weekly basis. Around a third (35%) use micro-blogging sites on a weekly basis.
    • SMS, email, voice calls on a mobile and social networking have all seen significant decline over the past year as methods of weekly personal communication. Use of standard text messages and social networking sites each declined by seven percentage points. Similarly, use of email is down by six percentage points on the year. But use of instant messaging has remained stable, with a quarter (26%) of UK adults using this for personal communications on a weekly basis.
    • Instant messaging is having an impact on use of standard text and picture messaging. Over half (54%) of instant messaging users said these services had reduced the proportion of SMS and MMS they sent. This is consistent with a reduction in standard text message volumes – over the past year the proportion of SMS sent fell from 39.7 billion to 37.1 billion.
    • 16-24s are more likely to use their mobile phone than a computer for Facebook, Twitter and instant messaging. Respondents were asked which devices they used for their various web-based communications. Younger users are more likely to use a mobile phone than a computer for almost all the digital communication methods asked about. This included social networking (61% vs. 49% respectively); micro blogging (27% vs. 16%) and instant messaging (51% vs. 36%).
  • TV Consumption up
    • On average viewers watched 4 hours of television per day in 2012; this has increased from 3 hours 42 minutes in 2004. All age groups have increased or maintained their television consumption compared to 2004 except for adults aged 25-34, whose viewing fell by 12 minutes a day.
    • Younger adults watch television the least, with those aged 16-24 being the lightest viewers, while those aged 65+ are the heaviest viewers. At the highest point of average weekday viewing there were 1.9 million 16-24s watching TV in 2012, about 30%
    • Despite the increased penetration of digital video recorders (DVRs) over the past five years, the proportion of time-shifted viewing remains low. According to BARB, over two-thirds (67%) of the population now have a DVR at home, up from 18% in 2007. Time-shifted viewing increased from 2% to 10% over the period, with year-on-year signs that the growth rate is slowing.
  • Internet
    • Forty-nine per cent of UK adults accessed the internet on their mobile phone in Q1 2013, up from 20% in Q1 2009. The largest rise in mobile internet take-up was among those aged 25-34, up 40 percentage points to 74%, but the fastest growth was among those aged 55-64, increasing more than five-fold in four years.
    • Fifty-one per cent of UK adults now own a smartphone. Smartphone sales made up three-quarters (74%) of all handset sales in Q1 2013, and overall take-up rose to 51% in the same period. However, among mobile internet users take-up is even higher, with 96% of users owning a smartphone.
    • Digital advertising exceeded £5.4bn in 2012, up 13.3% on 2011. £4.8bn was spent through internet-only advertising channels, up 13.0% on 2011. The remaining £623m of digital advertising expenditure was split between broadcaster video-on-demand spend (£104m) and online spend by press brands (£519m).
    • Mobile advertising grew by £323m in 2012 – more than half of all digital advertising growth. Mobile advertising expenditure rose to £526m in 2012, growing 148% from £203m in 2011. The absolute increase of £323m accounted for more than half (53%) of the total 2012 increase in digital advertising spend.
    • The average UK household is most likely to own a laptop, smartphone and games console. Each household in the UK has, on average, three different types of internet-enabled device, and 86% have at least one.
    • More than 30% of webpage traffic came from mobile phones and tablets in February 2013. The proportion of webpage views from desktop and laptop computers declined by 20 percentage points to 69% in the 11 months to February 2013. In the same period the proportion of web-page views from mobile phones almost tripled and the proportion from tablets doubled, to 23% and 8% respectively.
    • Among tablet owners, the tablet is on a par with the laptop as the most important device for accessing the internet. However, among the overall population no single device was chosen by a majority of internet users. The most popular choice was the laptop computer (46% of internet users), followed by the desktop computer (28%) and the smartphone (15%).
    • Laptop and desktop internet users spend at least 35 hours online each month. Men spent the most time browsing online, especially those aged between 25 and 34, who spent an average 47.7 hours online per month in April 2013.
    • Eight in ten households have home internet access. Household internet access rose to 80% in Q1 2013, just one percentage point higher than Q1 2012, the slowest growth since internet take-up stalled in 2006. In contrast mobile internet access rose ten percentage points to 49% of adults, the second fastest growth on record.
    • Average weekly internet retail sales grew 10% in the year to May 2013, from £528m to £582m. Sales were highest in December 2012, when £847m of retail spend was online, an increase of £128m (17.9%) on the previous high, set in December 2011.

Fast Facts

Digital TV

  • Proportion of UK homes with digital TV Q1 2013 97%
  • Minutes spent watching TV per day (person aged 4+) 241 (4 hours)
  • Proportion of homes with a DVR 53% Radio
  • Proportion of radio listeners with a DAB radio in their household 44%
  • Proportion of listener hours through a digital platform (DAB, online DTV 34%
  • Minutes spent listening to radio per day (among radio listeners) 170 (2 hours, 50 minutes)
  • Number of local radio stations broadcasting on analogue (excluding community stations) 338
  • Number of community radio stations currently on air 207 Number of national radio stations (analogue and DAB) 27


  • Total household internet take-up 80%
  • Number of fixed residential broadband connections 21.7 million (Dec 2012)
  • Proportion of adults with broadband (fixed and mobile) 75%
  • Proportion of adults with mobile broadband 5%
  • Superfast broadband take-up (proportion of non-corporate connections) 17.5%
  • Average actual broadband speed 12.0Mbit/s (Nov 2012)
  • Proportion of homes with a PC or Laptop 79%
  • Proportion of people who use their mobile to access the internet 49%
  • Number of mobile broadband subscriptions (dongles/PC datacard) 4.917m (Dec 2012)

Fixed and mobile telephony

  • Number of residential fixed landlines 24.4 million (Dec 2012)
  • Number of fixed landlines in the UK, including ISDN channels 33.1 million (Dec 2012)
  • Proportion of adults who personally own/use a mobile phone 92%
  • Proportion of adults with a smartphone 51%
  • Proportion of adults who live in a mobile-only home 15%
  • Proportion of prepay mobile subscriptions 39%
  • Number of text messages sent per mobile subscriber per month 153 (2012)


  • Addressed mail volume in 2012 15.7bn items
  • Approximate no. items received by residential consumers per week 8.4
  • Approximate no. items sent by residential consumers per month 7.7