Online TV Grows In Popularity, But Still Playing Catch-up with Traditional Media

With Netflix launching in both Ireland and the UK today, online TV is expanding its horizons with more and more funds invested and content uploaded for these services. But while it's growing in popularity, our viewing habits haven't adjusted at the same rate to make it a rival to traditional TV.

In a report entitled State of the Media which summarised data allocated from 2011, Neilsen estimates that Americans spend an average of 32 hours and 47 minutes watching traditional TV. In comparison, they spend almost four hours watching TV online, almost two and a half hours watching Timeshifted TV (live TV you can pause and replay later) while almost 35 minutes is spent watching video either on the internet or on a mobile device.

While watching TV is a more passive activity dictated by what stations decide to broadcast at a particular time, online TV is driven by choice so therefore viewers will be far more selective in their viewing habits.

From a global perspective, Neilsen found that overall, consumers would be more likely to own or purchase a HD TV than a smartphone or tablet. This reflects the fact that most TV viewing is done the traditional way however it does pave the way for consuming TV through smartphones which is the second most popular device both owned and sought after. This implies that online TV sites and broadcasters would try focusing more on mobile content for iPhone and Android users in the future.

Regarding online content, there is a predictable difference between the number of unique viewers a site receives and how many hours are spent on that site. For example YouTube gets the most number of unique viewers with 126.5 million yet the number of hours spent per month on the site is less than three hours. In comparison, Netflix is the most popular site with more than ten hours spent on it per month.

There are a few blanks in this report, for example it only analyses how the US views online tv which, while making up a significant proportion, may not reflect the same trends internationally. Also, it would have been nice if the report mentioned how many people view programmes on each medium or the demographics of those who use online TV. Since the majority of them are subscription based, it could be a cast that it's more popular with an older demographic than say a younger generation who have limited spending power.

However, if this is the case then it's only a matter of time before online TV catches up with traditional TV. How long this will take is anyone's guess but when it does happen, it will signal a radical change in how we view and consume video media.

The full report can be viewed here.

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