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Online TV viewing has been steadily gaining in popularity – nearly one-fifth of American households that use the internet watch television broadcasts online, double the online viewership levels of 2006, according to a study by The Conference Board and TNS.

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Among other findings of the study:

  • The top two destinations for online broadcasts are the TV channel’s official homepage, accessed by 65% of viewers, and YouTube.com, accessed by 41% of viewers.

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  • Nearly 72% of online households log on for entertainment purposes on a daily basis, and one in ten cites entertainment as the most important internet activity.
  • Most consumers do not like a set schedule: Being able to watch broadcasts on their own time and at their convenience are the top reasons users tune in online. Other reasons include avoiding commercials and portability.

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“Most consumers are pressed for time and require flexibility in their daily schedules and TV viewing habits,” said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. Accordingly, they’ll continue to turn to the internet in greater numbers, she said.

Other findings from the TCB/TNS survey:

  • The top methods for viewing broadcasts online are streaming video, used by 68% of online TV viewers, and free download, used by 38% of viewers.
  • The top 5 types of shows viewed online are news, drama, sitcom/comedy, reality shows and sports, with user generated content following close behind:
    • 43% go online for news, 39% watch drama shows, 34% view sitcom/comedy shows, 23% watch reality shows, 16% view sports, and 15% view user-generated content.
    • Other categories attracting viewers include previews, additional content from favorite shows, soap operas, and advertisements.
  • Among online TV viewers, almost nine out of ten watch online broadcasts at home. About 15% say they watch internet broadcasts in the office, and 6% watch TV online from other locations, including the library or a friend’s home.

“The shift from appointment TV to content on demand is well underway,” said Michael Saxon, SVP, Brand and Communications, TNS. “Fundamentally, consumers expect content to be available when they want it, and on the screen of their choice – TV, PC, or mobile. For consumers, PCs enhance content on demand from simply time-shifting to place-shifting.”

About the survey: The Consumer Internet Barometer is based on a quarterly survey of 10,000 households. A unique sample is surveyed each quarter. Return rates average 70%, which ensures highly representative data. Data is weighted as well to reflect the latest US household demographic information. This survey was conducted during the third quarter of 2008.

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