Anyone running a serious TV business will want to know precisely how much time people are spending watching traditional TV content on the Internet.
The figures in this chart are, we think, the first accurate figures for the viewing of TV on the Internet in the UK. I will explain why later.
They tell us that the average viewer spends just three minutes and twenty seconds a week watching BBC content on the Internet.
You may be surprised at this low number. The Internet is a world of large numbers. Streams, downloads, requests, hits measured in millions.
So what is going on?
So what is going on?
We think the figures in the chart are reasonably accurate because they are based on a large panel of viewers and because they measure durations of viewing, not just hits on sites or pages. That means they can be aligned with traditional TV measurement systems like BARB in the UK.
Does this mean producers can now find out – objectively – how long people spend watching their shows on the Internet?
Not yet, but we are getting there.
Up till now there has been a surprising lack of hard data about Internet video viewing in the UK. Published figures almost invariably relate to the BBC iPlayer. For example, a BBC press release from February this year read: “This month BBC iPlayer has doubled its requests from 61.5 million in January 2009 to 120.3 million in January
2010.” Other than telling us that the iPlayer is doing much better in Jan-2010 than it did in Jan-2009, it does not allow us to gauge the iPlayer’s overall contribution to the viewing of BBC content. How, for example, did 120.3 million iPlayer requests compare with viewing to BBC! in January 2010?
Research by BARB in the UK, using a relatively small sample, estimated that the average person spends about 14 minutes per week watching TV programmes on the Internet via a PC or laptop. Since average adult viewing via standard TV sets in the UK is 27 hours per week, this suggests that only about 1% of TV content viewing takes place online. Naturally, the figures were higher for 15-34s, who spent, on average, 26 minutes watching TV programmes on the Internet. Nevertheless, since they too spend more than 20 hours a week watching TV on standard sets, this still only represents 2% of their TV viewing.
Now comScore, the Internet measurement company, has taken things a step forward. ComScore has large Internet panels in a number of key territories that can provide demographic level information. Where broadcasters have allowed their content to be tagged, comScore can even add title level viewing data.
We may be seeing the beginnings of a systematic attempt to capture viewing on the Internet. What everyone is waiting for, though, is a way of measuring the viewing of particular titles. But unfortunately here in the UK we are not able to touch the real motherlode of title level data yet, though we have been told by comScore that they’re working on it.
Here’s what we can tell you. Let’s start with all Internet video consumption (both streamed and downloaded) via PCs and Laptops, not just the viewing of TV content. That means everything from music videos to user generated content to pornography. Using the comScore figures we can work out that the average person in the UK spent 2 hours and 17 minutes a week watching video content on the Internet in September 2010. (That compares with 26 hours and 13 minutes of watching a TV set. So the total Internet video audience is still quite small relative to TV, only 8.7% the total TV audience.)
YouTube is by far the biggest player here, accounting for 34 minutes of weekly Internet viewing, 25% of the total. The BBC sites, which come next, account for 3 minutes and 20 seconds of weekly Internet viewing, which, as shown in our chart, is just 2.4% of the total. Clearly the bulk of the Internet video content watched in the UK is still a mix of music videos, user-generated content, pornography and, no doubt, pirated stuff. It’s certainly not traditional TV.
The BBC’s 3 minutes and 20 seconds of Internet viewing per week in fact makes only 1% of the 5 hours and 2 minutes a week the average person in the UK spends watching BBC1.
Connected TV’s may one day change everything. But right now what we are watching on the Internet is only – occasionally -- traditional TV.
A year or so ago one couldn’t attend a new media conference without speakers and delegates talking about how we were nearly at the tipping point when traditional television viewing would collapse. The evidence to date suggests something different: it seems that many of the traditional TV broadcasters are simply seeing the Internet as another useful way of distributing their content and tying people in to their brands, just another platform through which content can be distributed for the benefit and convenience of the viewers.
(Thanks to Farid el-Husseini who did the calculations and corrected my draft)