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Think BR: The changing face of media consumption

UK consumers are increasingly moving away from purchasing physical products and instead turning to the internet, write Gavin Sugden, director, and Tom Cross, senior research executive at Ipsos MediaCT.

Gavin Sugden, director, Ipsos MediaCT

Gavin Sugden, director, Ipsos MediaCT

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With Christmas shopping in full swing, we know from our quarterly Tech Tracker survey that many historically popular gifts such as CDs, DVDs and video games may well be less prevalent under the tree this year, as consumer preference swings away from physical consumption.

Though the decreases in physical purchases are not always mirrored by increases in digital purchases, it’s clear that there are enough signs of alarm for those in the music, gaming and film industries based on UK adult purchasing behaviour.

There was a bump in CD sales at Christmas last year, so those in the music sector will be keen to see a repeat of that in the coming weeks; however the trend over the last year is one of decline.

Four in 10 adults were paying for CDs just over a year ago, whereas now only three in 10 claim to.

It could be that the increasing noises in the media about the worsening state of the economy, together with the perception among many that they have less cash available for luxury purchases, may have contributed to this reduction.

This seems even more plausible when you consider that the number of people who have paid for music downloads (less than a fifth) hasn’t really increased by much over the course of the last year.

Ultimately though, the swing is certainly towards digital music, and the gap is narrowing.

It’s still surely just a matter of time before digital takes over from physical as the most popular consumption method.

There has been a steady decrease throughout 2011 in the number of consumers purchasing a physical video game for a console, from more than a quarter of all adults, to less than a fifth now.

Of those purchasing a game, PS3 owners are most likely to do so, although, Xbox 360 (and to a lesser extent, Wii) owners aren’t too far behind.

PS3 owners are also more likely to download a game directly to a console, but overall less than 1 in 10 UK adults have downloaded a game this way.

We know though that this isn’t the only way that people have downloaded games in the past year.

More and more games are being developed for smartphones and tablets, and for some casual gamers, if not serious ones, the time they spend on those games could arguably impact on the amount of time they spend playing, and therefore buying new games for their console.

As the sophistication of smartphones and tablets develops, it’s clear that this relatively new form of digital gaming can have a detrimental impact on physical video game purchases in the future.

Gavin Sugden, director, and Tom Cross, senior research executive, Ipsos MediaCT

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