Survey: Only 8% of teens watch TV online

Researcher says fuss over streaming may be overblown

As the mainstream media and Wall Street fawn over repurposed television shows streamed for free on, and related network sites, independent analyst Bruce Leichtman wonders what the fuss is about.

In a nationwide survey of 1,250 broadband households and separate sample group of 250 teens aged 12 to 17, Leichtman found that only 8% of respondents watch repurposed TV shows online, compared with 24% who watch news clips, 20% who view user-generated clips on YouTube and 15% who watch sports news or highlights.

"While online video usage is growing, it is shortsighted to think of this primarily as an alternative venue for watching TV shows," Leichtman said in research notes. "In fact, consumer use of video online remains much more about short-form video."

The Durham, N.H.-based analyst said changes in the amount of TV programming consumed online compared to the TV do not portend an emerging "either/or" dichotomy among viewers. The report found that people who watch TV shows online weekly are actually heavier media consumers and less likely to disconnect from subscription-based cable TV.

About 8% of respondents who watch repurposed TV online (18% among teens) said they watch TV less often. Indeed, just 3% of adults (compared to 4% last year) said they would consider disconnecting their TV service to watch exclusively online.

The report said the number of broadband connected homes doubled in the past four years to 68 million at the end of 2008.