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60% of 'Net Users Watch Video Online: Traditional TV Doomed?

A new survey by Pew features a couple of very interesting stats about online video viewership: 62% of adult 'net users have watched video online, a figure that's risen from 33% two and a half years ago. Meanwhile a massive 89% of youngsters also watch video online.

online video watchingThere are more gems resulting from Pew's survey. 36% of youngsters watch online video on a typical day, and 19% of all 'net users do so. 35% of Internet users have watched a movie or TV show online, a stat that's more than doubled since a prior 2007 survey, and 23% of these people have hooked their PC up to a TV. Best of all, the survey data has inspired Pew to draw this fabulous conclusion: "The use of video sharing sites currently outranks many other headline-snatching Internet pastimes among American adults." That point is made on the basis of the following figures: "Watching online videos on sites like YouTube is more prevalent than the use of social networking sites (46% of adult Internet users are active on such sites), podcast downloading (19% of Internet users do this) and the use of status updating sites like Twitter (11% of Internet users do this)."

You might think these large-sounding figures will have TV execs trembling in their boots at the thought of their traditional business model being consigned to history, while Google and Hulu execs rub their paws together with glee. Nope—not really.

The last two years have seen a big rise in popularity of youTube, and its host of copycat competitors. Broadband penetration in the U.S. has increased—some 130% in the interval 2000-2008, for example. And the speed at which users can access the Web has dramatically risen. Video capabilities in browsers have improved. Internet savvy-ness in the general population has gone up, and emailing and smartphones are now ubiquitous. The netbook phenomenon saw cheap PCs going into the hands of a more diverse spectrum of consumers than ever before. And in 2007, the networks were far less accepting of ideas like Hulu.

Based on all those factors, it would be crazy if the online video-viewing statistics hadn't risen dramatically. And this is true particularly among the young demographic—an extremely broad age range for Pew, running from 18-29 years old—since these are the people who tend to communicate with their friends via IM, email, and SMS, sharing links to sites, online photos and videos.

And Pew's big conclusion is, basically, a big misdirection. It's based on a question directed at 'net users that runs something like "have you ever performed this action?" Of course many people have checked out a YouTube video when it arrives from a friend in an email or IM... quite probably many more than those who regularly update their Facebook accounts, or who are Twitter users. But that's the point—I suspect many people watch online video occasionally, whereas most of the youngsters I know are rabid Facebookers, Hi5ers, IMers, and so on. It's a question of sometimes versus habitually.

TV execs don't need to worry about this. Not yet, anyway.


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