TV is taking a back seat

Study shows allure of Web, mobile

Personal time that consumers spend on the Internet is rivaling their TV time, with user-generated content and networking sites among the most popular destinations for entertainment seekers. Plus, people seem more open to mobile content and are looking for more traditional entertainment offerings on their mobile devices than previously thought.

These are among the findings of a new IBM survey of consumer behavior in the digital age, which suggests that studios, advertisers, ad agencies, content distributors and other industry players must continue to adjust their business strategies amid changes in media usage and consumers' increased expectations for control and community.

Among key lessons for studios: Make your content available everywhere, but don't expect to get paid for every platform. And keep an eye on key influencers on the Web to succeed in creating word-of-mouth.

The survey is part of an IBM study on the future of advertising, set to be released in the fall, and it showed that consumers are divided over their preferences for free online content with ads or subscription fee-based content without commercials. About a third is for free content, but about 20% are willing to pay for the HBO-style model, according to IBM.

"Given the rising power of individuals and communities, media and entertainment industry players will have to become much better at providing permission-based advertising and related consumer-driven ratings services," said study co-author Bill Battino, communications sector managing partner at IBM Global Business Services.

In the latest sign of television's decline as the primary media device, 19% of respondents said they spend six hours or more each day on personal Internet usage. That compares with 8% who said so about the TV. One to four hours of TV usage was reported by 66%, compared with 60% for the Web.

"The Internet is becoming consumers' primary entertainment source," said Saul Berman, IBN Media & Entertainment Strategy and Change practice leader. "The TV is increasingly taking a back seat to the cell phone and the personal computer among consumers age 18-34."

The number of TV viewers using DVRs continues to expand, with 24% of U.S. respondents saying they have a DVR and watch 50% or more of TV programming in replay mode, IBM found. Of those viewers, 33% said they are watching more TV since owning a DVR, in line with other recent studies.

Australians show opposing trends from the U.S., with most respondents preferring live TV and replaying less than 25% of programming, according to IBM.

Watching video content on the Web is a popular activity these days. An average of 67% of consumers surveyed by IBM globally said they have watched or want to watch online video.

For video content online, the most popular destinations are user content-generated sites like YouTube, with 39% of respondents saying that's where they go most frequently. TV network sites (33%), search engines (32%) and social-networking sites (28%) are the next most-popular locations for Web video offers, according to the IBM study.

In the U.S., 26% said they have contributed to a social-networking site, and 7% have done so to a user-generated content site, compared with Australia, which has a leadership position in these areas with 36% and 9%, respectively, the survey found.

As far as mobile video is concerned, an average of 35% surveyed globally by IBM said they have or want to watch mobile video. Seven percent report having a video-content subscription for their mobile phones. Nearly a third of U.K. users said their mobile consumption ate in their TV viewing time, according to IBM.

Battino said his team was surprised that shortform content tailored to the mobile device was less popular than they had expected. About half of users said they prefer to access traditional video offers like TV shows on their mobile.

Could this lead consumers to one day watch more movies in mobile form as well? "We think that will be a natural progression from watching TV shows currently," the IBM expert said, adding that the under-20 age demographic especially loves portability of content. "They may start a film at home and then watch it on a laptop or cell on the go," he said. "And they like to watch in discreet time segments," meaning they might watch a movie in several 20-minute sessions.

The lesson of the IBM survey for studios is to continue making content available on various platforms. However, "don't expect consumers to spend incrementally on different devices," he warned. "People want to pay for content once and then move it" to whatever device they like.

Also, online ratings, reviews and word-of-mouth continue to emerge as key drivers of boxoffice success in the digital age, he added.

"Magnets," or online opinion leaders, are fast emerging as key influencers that media and entertainment companies must keep in mind when promoting their content, the IBM expert said. "Some companies have started putting such people on their payroll," he added without providing examples.

Battino said he thinks there is "very strong" consumer interest in day-and-date VOD releases by cable operators, which are testing such offers with studios. Hybrid purchases like allowing a movie buff to buy a ticket for a film plus get it on DVD at a theater as well also will be a wave of the future, he predicted.

Among key digital age gadgets and services, portable music offers are among the most popular, with 23% saying they are using them, according to the IBM survey. Also, 11% reported using a PC-based music service, and 18% reported an online newspaper subscription.

The online survey was conducted between mid-April and mid-June by the IBM Institute for Business Value and generated 885 responses in the U.S., 559 in the U.K., 378 in Japan, 338 in Germany and 263 in Australia.
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