Consumption of traditional media (such as TV and text messaging) remains stable

Increased usage of over-the-top Internet services (such as Netflix or Facebook Messenger) comes on top

‘Over-the-top comes on top’ – or in other words: while traditional media services such as TV and text messaging are not being abandoned, Flemish households make optimal use of their multiscreen environment to consume more and more over-the-top Internet services (such as Netflix, Facebook Messenger and Whatsapp). That is one of the findings of the new iMinds digiMeter report, an annual survey about media ownership and usage in Flanders that has been conducted among more than 2,000 people. Smartphones are an integral part of the Flemish digital lifestyle (almost seven out of ten digiMeter respondents are carrying one), but at the same time researchers from iMinds - Ghent University have come across the initial traces of a possible ‘digibesitas’: people can only digest a certain amount of information, and have to learn how to cope with that new reality.

79% of the respondents have at least three screens at home, 25.5% have five screens; smartphone ownership soars

The 'multiscreen' phenomenon (the availability of multiple screens within a single family – including TV, laptop, desktop, tablet and / or smartphone) has long been on the rise in Flanders. And that trend has been continuing to date: 79% of the digiMeter respondents now have at least three screens at home; more than a quarter even have five screens.

"Linked to that multiscreen trend, we have observed a sharp rise in the number of smartphones in Flanders," says Prof Lieven De Marez (iMinds - Ghent University). "Almost seven out of ten respondents are carrying a smartphone today – an increase of almost 13% compared to 2014. Remarkable as well is that the number of people having access to a tablet at home seems to have reached its top (58% in 2015; up from 56%). In other words: people in Flanders increasingly make use of their smartphones to consult their favorite services (social media, retrieving information, online banking, etc.). While tablets used to have an advantage due to their larger screens, smartphones’ user experience has improved significantly."

"Over-the-top comes on top": digiMeter respondents consume more digital media than ever before

Another finding is that traditional media continue to do well. For example, 86% of the digiMeter respondents subscribe to digital television (status quo compared to 2014); 78% of respondents indicate that they use their TV sets to watch their favorite TV programs on a daily basis (again a status quo compared to last year); in addition, we see that 70% still sends daily text messages (this number has also remained stable).

At the same time, digiMeter shows that people are increasingly making use of over-the-top Internet services such as Netflix (accounting for approximately 150,000 paying subscribers in Flanders, and a multitude of users who have tried the service already) Facebook Messenger (used on a daily basis by almost 40% of respondents) and WhatsApp (used daily by approximately 25% of the respondents).

"And that consumption pattern seems to give rise to a number of practical problems. We have found the first traces of a potential form of 'digibesitas’, caused by excessive use of digital media," says Prof. De Marez. "A rapidly-increasing number of respondents indicate that these activities are very time consuming, and sometimes even addictive."

"We’re mainly talking here about people in their twenties and early thirties who, in recent years (during their teens and college life), could consume massive amounts of (often freely available) digital content. Today, however, they have a full-time job and a family to support, and they are faced – for the first time – with time constraints, which leads to lots of pressure. The next couple of years, we want to observe how they deal with these issues. For the first time, the digiMeter findings point to the existence of a small group of people who abandon their smartphones or Facebook accounts as a way to cope with this pressure,” he concludes.