In the last two years, American households that use the Internet have doubled their online television viewing. Now, nearly 20 percent use the Internet to watch television broadcasts online, and no, it’s not all on YouTube.
Based on a survey of 10,000 households, The Conference Board and TNS report that 72 percent of online households have family members who log on for entertainment purposes on a daily basis — but they’re also logging on from multiple locations. Nearly 90 percent watch online broadcasts at home, 15 percent watch at work, and 6 percent watch from other locations.
“Most consumers are pressed for time and require flexibility in their daily schedules and TV viewing habits,” noted Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center.
“Being able to watch broadcasts on their own time and at their convenience are clearly reasons why we are seeing a greater number turning to the Internet,” she said, “and it is the reason why we would expect to see this trend continue.”
News Is No. 1
Of the top five types of most-watched shows, news ranks the highest with 43 percent tuning in to check out what’s going on in the world. Thirty-nine percent watch dramas, 34 percent go for comedy, 23 percent watch reality shows, 15 percent view sports and 15 percent look for user-generated content (UGC). Of course, most viewers watch more than one kind of content, which explains why the numbers add up to more than 100 percent.
As for methods, streaming video is used most often — by 68 percent of viewers — which isn’t surprising, because it’s the method that generally lets content owners retain more control over the content. Free downloads are used by 38 percent of viewers. The report notes that few consumers are willing to enroll in pay per downloads and subscription services, though The Conference Board didn’t provide details.
It’s the Networks … and YouTube
While 65 percent of online TV viewers head to television network Web sites to view the flickering images, 41 percent also check out YouTube. As for other sites, the report called out iTunes, Hulu and Limewire as bringing up the rear — but, again, didn’t note the lower percentages.
Overall, the increasing activity doesn’t seem particularly surprising.
“It’s a combination of a number of factors,” Phil Leigh, principal analyst for Inside Digital Media, told TechNewsWorld.
“There’s more households with broadband Internet subscriptions, and a lot more content providers are putting good content on the Web. Plus, the TV networks are starting to post content promptly, and they’re getting behind sites like Hulu.com, where you can watch content for free,” Leigh explained, noting that the Olympics just amplified the trend.
More importantly, Leigh is seeing a broader understanding among average consumers that there’s little reason to watch video on a predetermined schedule — just because a show is scheduled for 10 p.m. doesn’t mean a consumer has to be on the couch at 10 p.m.
“Early adopters have known this for years, but the realization is crossing the threshold into the mass market,” he pointed out.
Two Different Kinds of Fruit?
While the trend of an increase in online viewing and greater content availability is clear, the actual kind of content and time spent watching that content online isn’t necessarily so clear.
“My biggest concern here is that it seems they are mixing apples and oranges [with this survey],” Van Baker, a vice president of research for Gartner, told TechNewsWorld.
“In short, to talk about television broadcasts and UGC in the same sentence is contradictory. Television broadcasts are normally thought of as being either 30 minutes or one hour in length, including commercials. On the other hand, UGC is normally 30 seconds to two minutes. The study seems to imply that [many] consumers are watching the equivalent of a television episode on their PC. I sincerely doubt that,” he said.
Baker believes that consumers do watch news clips or sports fairly regularly, as well as higher-profile clips like “Letterman’s Top Ten” that are sourced from broadcast TV.
Despite the gains in online viewing indicated by the report, “for full length programs, the most common time-shifted source is still the [digital video recorder] — by a wide margin,” he said.