TVs are now the second screen, says BBC future tech guru John Howard

Tablets and phones come first, especially for children

TVs are now the second screen, says BBC future tech guru John Howard

Big changes are happening in UK households when it comes to technology usage.

Data from Ofcom reveals that for the first time, there's been a decline in the number of children with TVs and consoles in their bedrooms.

Of course, the reason is the rise of children owning smartphone and sharing access to tablets.

It's something that public-funded broadcaster the BBC has been following closely; as highlighted by John Howard, the executive product manager of the BBC Children's Future Media department at the Appsworld 2013 conference in London.

"The TV is fast becoming the second screen, not the other way around. We have to acknowledge that," Howard said.

Gaming generation

This is backed by Ofcom data that says 35 percent of households with children have now tablets - a number that's rising quickly - while 91 percent of children use their household tablets.

Howard also pointed out that while the parents tend to use tablets for internet and social media, the main usage for children is games, with 70 percent of children gaming on the household tablets.

Similarly when it comes to usage patterns on the BBC's 6-12 year-old-focused CBBC's website, 80 percent of visitors play a game.

"The BBC is the one of the largest game publishers in the UK," Howard said, pointing to the 1,700 games in its portfolio.

Significantly, none of them has an average play session duration of more than 10 minutes, making them ideal for phone and tablet usage.

The HTML5 native balance

The switch from PC to mobile operating systems is also resulting in BBC becoming a big user of HTML5 for games development; something that's replacing Flash games because it provides better cross-platform accessibility for phones and tablets despite lower performance.

Indeed, one of the most successful game launch on the CBBC website - a Scooby Doo Funfair Freak Out-themed game - uses HTML5.

That's not to say that the BBC ignoring native development, though.

Working with independent developer Mobile Pie, it's just released its Playtime app, which includes mini-games themed around different Cbeebies shows. Cbeebies is the BBC channel for under six year-olds.

Being a public-funded company, the app - like all BBC games - is a purely free experience, without any in-app purchases or advertising.

Combined with its educational themes, it's something that's likely to further encourage parents to download the app for their children.

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.