A View from Brad King

Online Video Breaks the TV Habit

More people are watching more video on computers. This means they’re spending less time in front of the television.

  • November 27, 2006

A new study out of England found that more people are turning to the Web for their television.

Online TV watchers are still a minority–9 percent of the overall audience surveyed. However, 43 percent of those who said they watched television shows on the computer also said they watched less traditional TV. Now, there is some good news for network executives. Those who don’t watch video online–67 percent of the respondents–said they were unlikely to switch their viewing habits over the next twelve months.

But the worlds of television and entertainment are about youth, and that is the very demographic that is rapidly gravitating toward online viewing. From the BBC story:

Online and mobile video is far more popular among the young, with 28 percent of those aged 16-24 saying they watched more than once each week. An average of 10 percent aged 25-44 were net video regulars, with that figure falling to just 4 percent of over-45s.

Now, in and of itself, it’s no surprise that younger people are using their always-on connectivity to access television on mobile devices. This shift, though, may also be influencing the types of televisions people are purchasing.

LCD television sales are currently outpacing plasma-screen sales. It’s true that LCD screens hold up better during the manufacturing process, particularly for the larger models, but it’s hardly startling that the computer-like look and feel of those sets are generating sales. At my house, my LCD television comes with a series of primary inputs that allows me to easily hook up my game console, stereo, laptop, and DVD player (some of which are redundant, I know).

So, if we believe that more people are watching television on their laptops and mobile devices, and if we believe that LCD televisions, with ease-of-use connectivity with computers, are soon to be the dominant product, we are faced with an interesting question: how long will it be before startup, online-only TV networks hit the mainstream?

It’s easy to argue that Google’s YouTube is a nonlinear version of a network, a small patchwork of user-created content. However, the folks at Break.com are looking to formalize the concept. They pay for user-created content of a different sort–content that is more coherent and expertly produced–in hopes of attracting a regular viewing audience.

So, according to this Reuters story, the answer may be that we don’t have to wait long at all:

But in recent months, videos like those posted by “lonelygirl15” on YouTube have become pop culture phenomena attracting millions of watchers. Lonelygirl15 was a fictional character dreamed up by three young filmmakers who have since launched careers based on their “Webisodes.”

The backers of video sites hope to one day rival television networks and attract millions of dollars in advertising. With that in mind, Web search giant Google acquired YouTube in a deal valued at $1.65 billion and completed this month.

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