Ben Macklin, Senior Analyst
There is no correlation between US Internet users watching video online and a potential audience for television content delivered on the Internet. Just because consumers are currently watching free, short-form video does not necessarily indicate there is a viable business model to support viewing of traditional TV content online.
Most of the evidence available suggests that online video content is supplementing and complimenting traditional TV content and viewing habits rather than replacing or supplanting them.
Audiences are fragmenting, but they have been fragmenting ever since the introduction of cable TV. People may be watching less of the traditional broadcast channels in favor of cable, time-shifted content and Web-based content, but overall TV usage has still increased, according to Nielsen Media Research.
The vast majority of online video content is short-form and bite-sized. It is not the new TV. Not only is the content different, but the way people view it is different: lean-forward compared with lean-back.
The distribution of content must be addressed separately from the means of accessing that content. Convergence is definitely occurring in content distribution, which will eventually all be through Internet protocol. However, the PC and Internet will not replace the TV as an access device in the foreseeable future.
In fact, what is more likely is that more Web content will be viewed on the TV in the future. The comfortable lounge room and big-screen TV is best place to watch premium video.
TV and video content will be distributed to a host of different access devices, including PCs, TVs, mobile phones and other devices. As Burst Media has noted, viewers often watch TV and use the Internet at the same time, so the two media are not necessarily in competition.
Digital and interactive technologies are not necessarily reducing TV viewing as much as they are shifting it in both time and space.
Most people watch TV outside of work hours. But Web video is accessed both at work and home. So, just because Web video usage is increasing, and in aggregate may be growing strongly compared to TV usage, it is not necessarily the aggregate figures that make for the best comparison with TV.
The Cable & Telecommunications Association of Marketers (CTAM) says that broadband video currently makes up less than 3% of total video watching per week. The exact amount varies depending on demographics, but the average respondent in a CTAM survey watched 31.4 hours of TV per week and 0.9 hours of Web video. Broadband video users do watch slightly less total TV (8% less) and prime-time content (4% less) than the total population.
There also is the question of illegal video and TV content online. If a person in a survey says “I watched three hours of TV content online” and it was all illegally-downloaded copyrighted material, does this translate into a viable future online TV model?
The argument could be made that 14-to-18-year-olds, who watch more Web video than those ages 35 and older, are forming viewing habits now that will mean a sea change in media consumption as they age.
That may be the case, but not necessarily. As we grow older and spend more time at work and on other commitments, our lifestyles and media usage patterns change. Correlations between teen usage and future usage can be overstated.
There is no question that greater bandwidth is letting viewers access more video and other content online. Consumers are certainly demanding greater control of the video content they watch. The traditional TV advertising model will definitely change. But the word "convergence" is more about the distribution of content rather than access or usage.
Learn about different possibilities for the future of onlnie video. Read eMarketer's Online Video Content: The New TV Audience report.