The jury is still out on Hulu Plus and even on Apple's 99-cent episode rentals, but a new study by Ipsos finds that the younger demo is serious enough about on-demand viewing of TV online that they are willing to pay for it. In a speculative what-if survey of 18-to-34-year olds, Ipsos found that in a world of limited free options for viewing TV after its original airing, 51% of this group was interested in fee-based models from Hulu, Netflix or iTunes. Ipsos OTX MediaCT created a scenario where free alternatives were not available and TV was available via Netflix at $9 a month, iTunes at $1 a download with no ads, and Hulu at $1 with ads.
Attitudes towards pay models for post-broadcast TV appear to be very age-specific. While 17% of the younger demo was interested in a pay-per-episode Hulu model only 11% of those 35 and older wanted to buy in. Overall 49% of youth had no interest in pay models while 70% of the 35+ group eschewed pay post-broadcast TV altogether.
While Hulu set a standard for ad-supported free TV content online, many younger viewers will follow it and other providers behind a pay wall. "The young adult population clearly has an appetite for accessing their regularly watched shows and are willing to pay for that access," says Brian Cruikshank, EVP at Ipsos. "Further, the fee-based market is competitive with no dominant service." The survey showed Netflix with a slight edge in user preference, but overall the field for pay models in TV seems wide open. Of course this suggests that for all of the time, money and effort Hulu, Netflix and iTunes have put into their digital TV models, legacy media companies have room to maneuver competitive services and even throw some of their weight around when it comes to distributing content on any of these digital platforms.
Ipsos feels that the per-episode model is appealing especially to the youth market and will likely drive the greatest growth.
Interestingly, the eagerness to use the Web to catch up on or re-experience TV content varies a bit from genre to genre and even moreso from show to show. People are more likely to want to re-watch comedies than other genres, but a subscription service like Netflix was more appealing for its run of dramas since viewers wanted access to whole season continuities. Ipsos found that most TV programs merited online viewing on Hulu, Netflix or iTunes among 40% to 50% of their audiences. But when it came to marquee documentaries or niche programs like Mad Men and True Blood that number shot up to 60%. In other words, on-air mass popularity or even a single business model, may not be predictive of online video success. Whether someone wants to see a show on the Web, and which way they want to pay for it, will be specific to genres and shows.