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Members of the Baby-Boom generation are increasingly shifting away from traditional TV in favor of online services and entertainment, and now spend more free time online than they do watching TV, according to a study by ChangeWave Research.

The May benchmark survey of business professionals ages 45-63, focused on TV viewing habits vs. home internet usage. It found that Boomers spend an average of 12.9 hrs/week online, compared with only 11.8 hours/week watching traditional TV. It also found that many Boomers would be willing to give up their subscription TV service if they could get the same programming online.

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Moreover, by a five-to-one margin Boomers are watching less traditional TV than they did a year ago. Among this group, 62% say it’s because they’re not as interested in what’s on TV these days, and another 26% say they’re spending more time surfing the web, ChangeWave said.

Boomers Unwilling to Pay for Social Networking

Though more than half of Boomers have a social networking profile? on a site such as LinkedIn (51%) or Facebook (55%) or another site, 77% of users say they would not be willing to pay a subscriber fee for social networking. Of all the services, LinkedIn is the most likely to attract paid subscribers – but only 7% say they’d be willing to pay a fee if it was no longer free.

Traditional TV vs. Alternative Programming

Among traditional TV viewers, 20% of survey respondents say they would be likely to downgrade or cancel their current TV service package in the next six months. The likelihood of canceling is highest among cable (22%) and satellite subscribers (22%), and lowest among fiber-optic TV subscribers (7%).

When asked which one paid subscription – among all media choices – they’d be most willing to give up, 44% selected TV service, which fared significantly worse than any other subscription service.

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ChangeWave said that the vulnerability of TV subscription services is a direct result of the growth of internet video, which is providing a direct threat to traditional TV. More than two-thirds of Boomers (69%) say they’ve watched video content on their computer over the past 90 days and 48% say they’d be willing to pay a monthly fee for a subscription to an internet video service if it provided the same programming currently available on TV.

In terms of the top TV websites, YouTube.com (79%) is the leading online website Boomers use to watch video, followed by TV network websites (39%), Hulu.com (16%) and iTunes (11%).

Some Ads Okay

In terms of willingness to watch ads associated with internet video, the survey found, not surprisingly, Boomers clearly want to see fewer ads than they do with conventional broadcasting. However, more than two-thirds (68%) say they are willing to view at least some ads online.

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About the research: The survey was conducted by polling members of the ChangeWave Alliance Research Network, a group of 20,000 business, technology and medical professionals and early-adoptesr. ChangeWave surveys this network of members weekly on a range of business and consumer topics, and converts the information into a series of proprietary quantitative and qualitative reports.

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