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Remotes Lose Favor Among Younger Viewers

As multichannel operators search for better ways for subscribers to navigate through hundreds of hours and tens of thousands of on demand titles, a new report finds that many younger viewers would prefer to use their smartphones and tablets to change channels and control their TV viewing.

The survey by Altman Vilandrie & Co. and Research Now found that over two-fifths (41%) of those aged 18-34 would prefer using their smartphone, tablet or computer keyboard to change channels and control their TV.

In addition, about half of all 18- to 34-year-olds say they would prefer an alternate program guide, such as a screen with apps or images of available content, to a traditional TV guide.

Several operators and a number of vendors have been moving to satisfy that demand with apps that allow smartphones and tablets to navigate through the channel line-up, search for content and program DVRs.

"Instead of the age-old argument about who holds the TV remote, families will soon be squabbling over whose smartphone is controlling the TV," said Altman Vilandrie director Jonathan Hurd, who oversaw the research project, in a statement.

Hurd also noted that declining interest in using a TV remote is part of a number of notable changes in the way younger consumers access video and TV.

"More and more, a new generation of viewers wants to watch TV and movies on their own schedule and with their own smartphones, computers and tablets," he also argued in a statement. "Consumers are removing the shackles of the traditional primetime TV lineup and creating their own personal networks of preferred programming and viewing times."

Those changing habits were highlighted in the finding that only one-third of 18- to 34-year-olds reported that they watch TV shows during the normal broadcast time on a daily basis, versus 58% of those 35 and older.

In addition, the survey found that these younger viewers are increasingly turning to mobile devices and online services like Netflix and Hulu to access television programs and movies and that the number of consumers spending less on cable TV has increased as other delivery options like online and mobile viewing become more popular.

Twenty percent of consumers say they spend less on cable TV than they used to because online video meets their needs, the survey found, up from around 15% last year.

Twenty-four percent of 18- to 34-year-olds have "seriously considered" dropping cable service because online video meets their needs, though only three to four percent of all consumers say they have actually "cut the cord" or cancelled their cable service because of online video, the researchers reported.

Sixty percent of this younger group watch online videos at least once a week.

Other finding included the fact that 11% of smartphone owners aged 18-34 watch TV shows and movies on a mobile phone daily and that multitasking during TV viewing is common for all age groups. About 28% of tablet owners multi-task with their tablet at least half the time while watching TV.

Over-the-top video services like Netflix were also important in the choice of broadband packages. Twenty-three percent of Netflix streaming subscribers who have broadband service said Netflix is the main reason they subscribe to broadband Internet and a large number (21%) said they would downgrade their broadband Internet service without Netflix.

Research Now fielded the online survey with more than 1,000 U.S. consumers in July.