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The way British consumers entertain themselves is changing, with online activities coming to the fore at the expense of more traditional pursuits, it is claimed.

Research conducted by Virgin Media indicated that people are beating the economic downturn by becoming more reliant on home entertainment delivered via their broadband connection.

The firm found that broadband-enabled fun - such as movie streaming, on-demand TV and web browsing - is becoming more popular than physical entertainment such as trips out to the theatre or cinema.

Virgin Media said digital forms of entertainment have now become 'can't live without' items within UK families' budgets.

Part of the reason for this is that consumers see home entertainment services as offering the best value for money, the firm stated.

Once they have paid for their broadband and TV bundle for the month, customers can simply sit back and enjoy a range of digital pursuits in their own homes, without the need for additional expense.

But not only this - the study indicated that broadband services are helping UK households to reduce their monthly outgoings.

Some nine out of ten consumers surveyed by Virgin Media said they had used online services to save money - adding to the appeal of broadband services.

They did so be visiting comparison sites (64 per cent), shopping online (63 per cent), using auction sites (50 per cent) and reading online news rather than buying a paper (39 per cent).

In many instances, the additional value gained by using internet tools helped households to cover the entire cost of their broadband package, Virgin Media noted.

Michael Hulme, Hon. Professor at Lancaster University, said the comparison between the technology-led entertainment and more established entertainment such as cinema trips, the theatre, eating out or a family excursion is "most interesting".

"Whilst all matter, when financial choices have to be made new media options consistently rank over traditional, physical entertainments," he noted.

"To 'miss out' on the internet is, for an increasing majority of people, to miss out on part of their lives, friends, families, entertainments, information, opportunity, in short a connected life."

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