Behind the Numbers: I Want My Web TV

The laptop's open but the TV is still on

TiVo might be a verb, but it's not an action for most of the younger generation. Instead, Internet television is the preferred digital video recorder for the youth of America. When they miss a show, they're opting for online video over a DVR, according to new evidence from Solutions Research Group.

In a recent study, the research firm found that 70 percent of 18- to 34-year-old online Americans have watched TV on the Web at some point, but only one-third of that group has ever viewed a show on a DVR or a TiVo. That means media companies and advertising agencies should keep an eye on the twentysomethings - their time-shifting behavior will determine the future of the business.

Nomadic by nature, young Web users are more apt to have a laptop with them instead of using a fixed household device like a DVR. "Younger generations are bonding with a laptop as their media portal of choice, just as previous generations did with TV and, before then, radio," says Kaan Yigit, president of Solutions Research Group. "It's not so much the end of TV as much as the beginning of a different kind of TV, one that is portable, flexible, shareable and searchable. This is the expectation of a new generation."

Their attitude is it's just as easy to go online and click when they miss a show than to remember to record it in advance. "At the 30,000 feet level, it's obvious to most that online will become the main platform for video entertainment," Yigit says. "When we reach a true tipping point is debatable. Some say five years, others 10. But it will happen, based on all the indicators."

That's because more people are watching more video online more of the time. Casual viewing of online TV shows doubled to 50 percent of the online audience in 2008 from 2006. Sure, we may not be watching a lot of hours on the pc, but we're becoming accustomed to it as another type of TV set. "As more content becomes available online, whether on network sites, Hulu, or via cable-delivered online portals of the kind Time Warner Cable is working on, the question will become, 'Why do you need a DVR?'?" Yigit says.

But let's remember that the wholesale shift away from TV hasn't happened yet. Most consumers aren't ditching their cable or satellite service in favor of online video viewing, according to a report from Leichtman Research Group. That report found a mere 3 percent of online adults would pull the plug on cable to just watch video online.

It's worth noting, though, that while only 8 percent of adults say they watch less TV because of their Web viewing habits, 18 percent of teens say they're turning away from the tube thanks to the Internet, reinforcing the premise that younger consumers will lead the charge into full-time online TV and, eventually, to mobile video. The latter has a medium-gaining momentum, thanks to the popular iPhone and similar smartphones. Yigit says 22 percent of wireless users now have a smartphone, up from 8 percent two years ago. About one-quarter of Americans with a wireless device said they watched a short video in the past month in the fourth quarter, up from 10 percent who did so two years ago.

The long and short is we're not turning off our TVs. Not yet, at least. But as we watch more shows on our phones and our computers, we soon will. 

3 comments about "Behind the Numbers: I Want My Web TV".
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  1. John Grono from GAP Research, May 21, 2009 at 11:25 p.m.

    Behind "Behind The Numbers".

    Just a comment on some of the numbers and conclusions. 70% of 18-34s have watched TV on the Web "at some point" versus a third on a DVR or TiVo. I would sure HOPE that was the case! Given the near ubiquitous nature of Interent access and the huge awareness of applications like YouTube, versus the cost of purchasing a DVR or TiVo, it is hardly surprising that 70% have watched online "at some point". Matter of fact, I think it is suprising that it is not higher - you mean 30% HAVEN'T ... get with it!

    Second, we shouldn't confuse "ever used" with "uses". Just looking at today's Nielsen data on MediaPost, 8hr 13min a month of time-shifted versus 3 hrs watching TV on the internet (Q0109 - All People2+), shows that even though more people have (probably) watched TV on the Internet than time-shifted, on an ongoing basis, more people are time-shifting than watching TV via the Internet.

  2. David Thurman from Aussie Rescue of Illinois, May 22, 2009 at 9 a.m.

    I am with you John, I can't remember when I watched a show when it was actually on, though this summer on Sunday Ice Road Truckers and True Blood will get my live viewing, DVR'd as well. While the 2nd screen (web) is okay, it still doesn't have an edge over the 1st screen in ease of watching, with DVR/TiVo Internet has an uphill battle. Now brining Internet to my TV may change all that, once bandwidth can maintain.

  3. Ronnie Lavi from Eyeblaster, June 23, 2009 at 1:43 a.m.

    I agree with most of this article but the last conclusion. I don't think that TV as a distribution platform will disappear. It will only evolve into something new when we have IPTV in place.

    I posted a full comment on my blog:

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