Digital sets interactive pace

There is strong demand for Interactive TV, especially when services are free and it offers products from well-known companies

New research from BMRB International reveals encouraging attitudes towards interactive TV and growth opportunities for companies planning to use it.

The figures show a rapidly changing market. In 1989, only four per cent of adults had access to multi-channel and pay-TV, compared with more than a third of UK adults today.

Ten years ago, 29 per cent of adults had a personal computer at home. Now the figure is closer to 40 per cent.

In l995, five per cent of UK adults had Internet access; today it is nearly 25 per cent. Since its launch a year ago, digital TV access has grown to 3.7 million adults – eight per cent of the adult population.

Growth prospects in the digital market for the next year look better still. One in ten adults claim to want access to digital TV in the next year. According to BMRB’s Target Group Index, 12 per cent of adults are looking forward to services such as TV shopping.

The digital TV audience is split equally between men and women. Those aged between 25 and 34 are more likely to have access, and represent 30 per cent of all viewers. Nearly half of all digital TV viewers have children (46 per cent), compared with 33 per cent of the adult population.

Unlike the Net, digital TV’s most significant penetration is among C1s and C2s, at 29 and 27 per cent respectively, against population norms of 27 and 23 per cent.

More than two-thirds of digital TV viewers do not have Net access, so they represent an entirely new market for interactive services. The divergence between digital TV and Net users shows you cannot rely on Net models to anticipate growth and characteristics in the digital TV market.

More than a fifth of digital TV viewers say the prospect of interactive services is one reason for take-up. Fifty-eight per cent will use them if they are free. Only a fifth (19 per cent) are likely to use interactive services if they have to pay. The most likely users of digital interactive services are young adults, women and families with children.

Less than 50 per cent of digital TV viewers would check their bank account; 39 per cent are likely to use sports reports; 34 per cent would check the weather forecasts; and 32 per cent might want further information on TV programmes they had just watched.

Thirty-six per cent of digital viewers would like to use e-mail, while 26 per cent want to play online games on TV, rising to 40 per cent among 15- to 24-year-olds.

Digital TV window-shopping is also attractive. Forty-four per cent want to search for holidays; more than a third would source insurance quotes. By comparison, less than two-thirds of Net users feel comfortable window-shopping.

The Net is beginning to move from specialist to consumer products, but this is the starting point for interactive TV. Top of the purchase list for digital viewers is holidays, followed by music/videos, cinema tickets and airline tickets. Tangibles such as clothes, books, groceries and financial products are less popular. This is in marked contrast to Net shopping, where products dominate services.

Unlike the Net market, digital TV users have few worries about security. More than half (61 per cent) think digital shopping is secure, compared with 46 per cent of Net users.

Price and brand familiarity are perceived to be important. Fifty-nine per cent would not buy on TV without having checked the product or service in a shop. Thirty-nine per cent are worried about lack of support if a sale goes wrong.

Some 57 per cent would only buy from a TV company they had heard of. Three per cent think it is important to purchase only well-known brands; more than half would use digital TV to shop if it was the cheapest option, although 12 per cent think convenience outweighs price considerations.

There is a strong demand from the public for digital TV and interactive services. Take-up will increase if these are free and skewed towards information and shopping in the big-brand consumer

Factfile is edited by Lucy Killgren. Liz McMahon director and Paul Milsom associate director at Media@BMRB, the media research unit of BMRB International contributed.

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