News from the Herd

Back in 1996 when I was involved in the UK launch of MSN there was an all-singing, all dancing event at the Royal Commonwealth Institute here in London.

Programme makers trouped along to hear MSN tout the Web as the next best thing for watching TV-like content. Bear in mind this was in the days of 28.8 dial-up…

Obviously it never happened that way, and arguably there have been a series of online video false dawns. Just the other month a piece of research by Tube Mogul showed that most web TV series lose the majority of their viewers after episode one.

I mention this as a Media Post article under the heading ‘Online Video Usage Dramatically Overstated’, talks about a recent piece of research – the (US) Video Consumer Mapping Study, produced by Sequent Partners and Ball State University.

The project found that while a lot of people watch online video, as a proportion of viewing figures it’s very low. Online video makes up less than 1% of US viewing time, while the good old TV still has a 2/3 viewing share.

This is supported by a raft of other research that shows, plainly, the Internet is somewhere where people dip in and out of to watch short clips. By and large its not somewhere where you can serve them lengthy content. Case in point, Comscore measures average US online video watching at ten minutes a day, and around fifteen minutes for the UK.

Indeed, Jim Spaeth of Sequent actually reckoned that people over estimated their use of online video as it’s “cool” and talked down the amount of time they spent sitting in front of the box.

TV RIP? Hardly

The fact is that advertising-led recession woes aside, unlike the print industry, TV has actually held its own pretty well. As Nielsen showed last year, heavy Internet users are actually the most likely to also watch TV as they multi-task.

And the past decade has seen a range of innovations introduced from the (now) humble PVR onwards. Just this week Italian / Israeli start-up Bee TV received a cool $8 million in funding for what TechCrunch described as its ‘stunning’ personal TV recommendation system.

According to the online demo, the founders fully intend to white label it to multi-channel TV content providers (like Sky and Virgin Media here in the UK) as a value added they can pass onto customers.

The conclusion? Online video, definitely here to stay and a powerful medium. But it supplements and doesn’t replace the main video viewing platform. That’s still the telly.