25% Of Under-34 Viewers Think Online Is Better Than Pay TV

A new report from Parks Associates caught my attention for this one blunt fact/assertion: The “OTT Playbook: Success Factors for Video Services” contends that 25% of consumers under the age of 34 believe that online video is just as good as pay TV.

That seems ridiculously high, even if you happen to be one of the people who think like that. And with people at the younger end — viewers 18 to 24 — the percentage is closer to 30%.

I don’t think there’s a lot of fact to back up the attitude, but it seems like the right thing to say. With effort, online video is several times better than pay TV — particularly if you are looking for stuff that originated on pay TV, but also if you are willing to forage online to find everything that is there.

But it still seems to me, for as miserable as TV can be, it’s an easier experience. The average online viewer is not thinking, "gee, I wish there was a better user interface." Not at all. 

I was just at the TV Of Tomorrow conference, where one of the panels involved itself with how connected TV viewers will deal with the fact that those online “channels” they can now access so easily don’t make it easy to decide what to watch. Without a schedule — the old way of analog TV — OTT viewers are faced with a mass of billboards for programs at each site they visit.  

There are some curating attempts, but I think the feeling of the panel was that it’s a problem that, like every other online video problem, will get solved. Somehow. And this might be an old man problem; younger viewers who haven’t been so fully raised on TV Guide-time may find this OTT “problem” nothing to worry about. For one, they might not be buying TVs to begin with.

That still leaves the need for content providers to, well, provide content. The Parks Associates piece warns that “a growing disillusionment with the content selection will show up as shorter viewing sessions, an increased volume of videos abandoned prior to show credits, and service log-ins without any viewing of content.”

In other words, those cable channels nobody watches.

The comedian/singer Martin Mull once joked onstage that when he carefully studied the careers of truly great songwriters, he noticed something all the songs had in common: They all started with an idea, he noted with a straight face.

That’s a Martin Mull joke, but he used it to explain that ideas are hard to find and multiply. The Parks report says more or less the same thing.

“Over half of Netflix and Hulu viewers watch three or more programs in a single viewing session. One-quarter watch five or more programs in a single sitting,” this report says. “In this era of binge viewing, viewers will quickly work their way through their most-preferred content. Since each user will be interested in only a portion of a video library, the volume of new content and of the library overall must be adequate in order to keep users interested.”

And that, Martin Mull would tell you, is no easy thing — particularly when online viewing choices are, almost literally, infinite. The barriers to entry to online video are extremely low — which is its unique feature. And its big problem.

4 comments about "25% Of Under-34 Viewers Think Online Is Better Than Pay TV".
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  1. Leonard Zachary from T___n__, December 10, 2014 at 1:19 p.m.

    You also need to factor in dark film library clouds which can be accessed through the interface and are essentially peer-to-peer. Technology for OTT keeps getting better and payTV keeps getting more $$$. Ask a millennial which would you rather spend a $100 month, mobile device or cable box? The multi-billion $$$ question: where is the inflection point to be secular or cyclical?

  2. J S from Ideal Living Media, December 10, 2014 at 1:48 p.m.

    Those figures of young people preferring online to pay-TV are way, way, way too low.

  3. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, December 10, 2014 at 2:23 p.m.

    So you believe Netflix was just lucky with House of Cards and Orange is the New Black? The rest will all be a bunch of Lillihammers, right?

  4. John Grono from GAP Research, December 11, 2014 at 6:33 p.m.

    Which is correct? The headline saying 25% think online is better, or the first paragraph saying "just as good as". Alternatively, the headline could also read "27% Of Under-34 Viewers Think Online Is Worse Than Pay TV".

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