U.K. Is Europe's Most Digitally Aware Nation (Report)

Ofcom study finds people in the U.K. spend an average of 746 minutes a week online, longer than any of the leading economies except the U.S.

LONDON - The U.K. is officially Europe's most screen-addicted nation, according to The Guardian. Britons spend more time online, own more smartphones and digital video recorders and watch more television over the Internet than any country on the Continent.

The British spend an average of 746 minutes (more than 12 hours) a week online, longer than any of the world's major economies except the U.S., according to media and telecoms watchdog Ofcom's sixth International Communications Market Report.

Revealing the full extent of the U.K.'s obsession with screen-based shopping and entertainment, Ofcom says U.K. digital TV penetration is the highest in Europe, with 97 percent of households receiving more than the five basic channels. France is the second highest, with 93 percent, and America some way behind at 87 percent.

According to the Guardian, some 36 percent of Britons own a digital video recorder – less than in the U.S., but considerably higher than in France (21 percent) or Germany and Italy (22 percent).

The BBC's iPlayer and Channel 4's 4OD have persuaded 27% of Britons to watch TV online every week, higher even than the US, where the total is 23 percent.

Smaller screens are also inviting eyeballs. Smartphone penetration in the U.K. reached 46 percent of all mobile subscribers in August this year, more than in Europe an the U.S. and up from 24 percent the year before, according to figures by analyst Comscore quoted in Ofcom report. The next highest was Spain, with 45 percent penetration.

James Thickett, Ofcom research director, said competition for attention from a panoply of smartphones, laptops and tablets had not led to a decrease in television viewing. Shows such as The X Factor and The Only Way Is Essex have encouraged viewers to react online while watching.

"Instead of one technology replacing another we are seeing people learning to simultaneously use different devices. You might be watching TV while texting or checking Facebook messages. Far from getting lost in this digital revolution, the opposite is happening, TV has managed to reinvent itself as a medium that complements other media."

U.K. consumers also shop more online, spending an average of 84 minutes a month on retail websites, with French consumers the next most devoted web bargain hunters, spending an average 83 minutes.

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