Describing not immodestly its own forecast as "bold," The Diffusion Group argues in a new report that by 2020, Internet video consumption will outstrip broadcast TV viewing. Now there is a caveat to this prediction. TDG is talking about video that is stored and distributed over IP, but they aren't necessarily saying the video will be viewed from people's desktop. In fact the key to this shift in video platform is the living room TV itself. Over the next 5 to 7 years, the researchers say the TV will become the primary viewing vehicle for Web video.
So the key to Web video dominance is Over-the-Top (OTT) delivery. As set top boxes, connected game consoles, and Internet TV make broadband to the living room more seamless, then it will become a bigger part of the mix. TDG's math runs something like this. They calculate that the average time spent watching online video across the entire TV-viewing population increased 84% in 2009 while they say TV view was relatively flat. They say that Web video viewing will accelerate as the assets move to the TV screen even as overall video viewing from all sources stays relatively constant at 32 hours a week. Essentially, they see a a sharp uptick in Internet viewing starting in 2015-2016, mirrored by a sharp decline in broadcast TV consumption. Somewhere in late 2019 the switchover occurs.
TDG contends that the stats may "seem shocking to some," but by 2019 or so consumers presumably won't be distinguishing between video content sources. Video is just video, and I presume some unified guide or personalization system is pulling broadcast and broadband content together into a single menu of choices.
When a market research firm calls its own forecasting "bold" and "shocking to some," you have to start wondering what we have come to in this digital economy. Research is starting to sound like a B movie of the late 50's. Should they come with a warning? "Investors with weak hearts will not be allowed to read the last ten startling pages of this report without a signed permission from their cardiologist. Trained nurses will be standing by."
In the end, however, the forecast is not that far-fetched. It is already true in my home. Between podcasts and rentals over Apple TV, Web video and TV on-demand on Boxee, Netflix on the Xbox the majority of content coursing through my HDTV is coming over broadband. Broadcast is now pretty much confined to a lean-back news catch-up for a half hour and then Jon Stewart and a bit of Dave. Everything else in my TV life is now on-demand. As the tools of on-demand have proliferated my TV viewing has experience more than a time shift. There has been attitude shifting as well. Increasingly I see broadcast TV as a stream of information I should be able to dip into and out of easily and quickly. The content I value I expect to be ready what I want it, not when it wants me.
I have seen the future, and it will be waiting for me to get to it. But for now, it involves a laughable number of remotes.