When it comes to viewing premium video, consumers have more options than ever, from TVs to PCs, tablets and game consoles. How are people dealing with all these choices? A new PwC study finds that while traditional TV is still king, consumers are more receptive to new video platforms than they were a year ago, especially tablets.
But the willingness to embrace alternative screens does not appear to extend to mobile phones, whose small screens and slower network connections limit their appeal for watching TV shows and movies. The large screen of the home TV remains the favored way to watch video, with two-thirds of those surveyed indicating interest in tuning in the TV set.
Still, more than half (58%) said they spend more time now viewing movies and TV shows online than they did a year ago. "This was further validated in qualitative discussions, where consumers confirmed that they spend more time using their Internet-connected devices, especially iPads," stated the PwC report.
The study emphasized that people considered tablets a "wholly different mobile viewing experience" compared to smartphones, given screen size. Less than one-quarter (23%) had an interest in watching premium video on smartphones. PwC said the lack of enthusiasm for mobile video is consistent with research it has done over the last 18 months.
Nielsen estimates that about 10% of U.S. mobile users watch video on their handsets. Other data suggests this audience may be small but that viewing activity is growing. Mobile video ad network Rhythm NewMedia said video views of full-length TV shows increased 200% in the second quarter.
Among other platforms, the PwC study did not quantitatively measure video consumption through game consoles. But it noted some consumers mentioned them as a convenient alternative for watching video. "This choice was primarily influenced by which room the console was in when they decided to watch a movie. It was definitely not considered to be their primary platform for viewing movies," the report stated.
The research also noted growing interest from a year ago in cloud- based media storage offerings. The idea of a digital locker for music, shows, movies or other content especially appealed to more mature audiences, people in their late-30s to mid-40s, given their understanding of storage technology. Younger people were also intrigued, but had concerns about pricing.
Film studios including Warner Bros., Miramax and Universal this year have begun offering movie streaming through Facebook, while Facebook commerce (F-commerce) provider Milyoni's "social theater" platform allows people to interact while watching movies on the social-networking site.
The PwC study found social media was the channel people were least willing to pay extra for to obtain premium content, in part because there's typically no charge for using most social networks.
Two-thirds of survey participants said they wouldn't pay anything to watch movies and TV via social properties. But because distribution through social media is still nascent, the consulting firm suggested there is still an opportunity for Hollywood studios and TV networks to leverage Facebook and other social sites.
Overall, the report showed people would rather rent rather than buy when it comes to video-on-demand because they view it as less expensive and less of a burden on their computers' hard drive. Getting faster access to movies (within four weeks of the theatrical release) rated as the most appealing feature of VOD offerings, but most viewers were willing to pay only an extra $5 to do so on top of an existing price.
The PwC findings were based on a survey of 312 U.S. adults ages 18 to 59 conducted in spring 2011.