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December 05, 2007

Will Time Spent Watching TV Outpace the Web?

By Greg Galitzine, Group Editorial Director

In a recent blog entry, Espial’s (News - Alert) (News - Alert) Kirk Edwardson refers to Bain and Co. research data that points to an increase in the number of hours that Americans will devote to watching television by 2012.

In a presentation titled, "U.S. TV Landscape in 2012, The impact of digitization" Bain researchers say the Average weekly hours of media usage per person will rise from 68 hours weekly to 71 hours, with the rise in television viewing the largest gainer at 1.8 hours.

Bain defines "media usage" to include television viewing (including time-shifted programming), radio/recorded music, Internet (including e-mail and IM at home — not office usage) and "other."

Information like this flies in the face of "chicken little" types who portend the end of "TV as we know it" and who claim that the digitalization of television will enable consumers to access any content anywhere, any time to the detriment of traditional viewing habits.

While it’s true that Internet-based video is growing at a rapid pace, with U.S.-initiated video streams nearly doubling from 3.7 billion to 7 billion, the total effects generated by online video are still small, representing approximately seven percent of time spent online and less than one percent of online spending.

One of the more interesting elements of the Bain research was the disparity between those holding the "disruptive change" view and the researcher’s own perspective.

Those who maintain that the industry landscape will be redrawn believe that


  • Consumers will view significantly less TV versus alternative media/applications;  
  • Linear TV viewing is replaced by "on-demand" behavior;  
  • Industry growth, profits will suffer; and  
  • New platforms (online, mobile) will cannibalize TV viewership.

In an opposing view, Bain believes that: 
  • Improvements in expanded TV experience (VOD, DVR, HD) hold viewers;  
  • Linear TV will still comprise majority (~75%) of viewing;  
  • Overall growth, profits will remain stable; and  
  • New platforms will complement, not replace, TV and be modestly sized.
Edwardson’s curiosity is piqued by the study and he asks several questions: 
  • Will the interactivity and personalization capabilities promised by IPTV factor into this?  
  • Would this finding hold in Europe and Asia?  
  • Does this represent a substitution effect of video rentals for TV services? In other words, net-net, is the amount of time spent watching TV holding constant but the delivery mechanism is changing (from DVD rental/purchase) to VoD?  
  • Is there viewing segmentation based on content type? For example, do subscribers accept ‘good enough’ distribution (i.e, mono sound, small screen for programming like the news) versus needing ‘premium’ distribution for a sporting event in HDTV with surround sound?

What do you think about this? Do you have any insight? Let us know. Feel free to post a comment to this article or send e-mail to ggalitzine@tmcnet.com.
Greg Galitzine (News - Alert) (News - Alert) is editorial director of TMCnet. To read more of Greg’s articles, please visit his
columnist page.

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