Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Survey Says: Web Video Watchers Aren’t Pirates. But They May Be Ready to Cut the Cable Cord


When I talk to people about Web video, I usually end up chatting with people who are in one of two camps. Either they’re tech-centric early adopters, who believe that networks are dinosaurs and that the masses are ready to ditch their cable TV subscriptions for Hulu and the like; or they’re old media realpolitik-sters, who think most people want nothing more than to come home, plop down on the couch and hit the remote. And that anything else is just marginal hype.

The truth has to be somewhere in between, right?

Yep, says Bernstein Research analyst Jeffrey Lindsay, who has rolled out a new study on the demographics of online video watchers, based on a survey his shop conducted in March. Lindsay concludes his study by announcing that Hulu, the joint venture between News Corp. (NWS) entertainment unit Fox, GE (GE) unit NBC Universal and soon, Disney (DIS) unit ABC, is more of a threat to Big Media (or at least to the cable guys) than Google (GOOG)) online video monster YouTube.

Not sure about that, but I do appreciate some of the data that Lindsay has unearthed, some of which reaffirms my own biases, and some of which challenges them.

For instance: More than half of the country is already watching television or movies via a Web connection, and nearly half of those people are oldsters over 40 (click to enlarge).


But very few online video watchers are pirating the stuff they watch. I would have thought, based on the ascent of sites like Megavideo, that piracy was much more prevalent:


Here’s the one I found most interesting–a third of online video watchers say they could see themselves ditching TV altogether in favor of the Web. That’s a third of all Web video watchers, mind you, so that’s maybe 15 percent of the population. But if that number is even close to accurate, that is indeed a real problem for the cable industry and the rest of the media ecosystem that depends on it.


The counter to that last point: Given the choice, people still prefer to watch TV on TV, and they view Web video as a separate option that’s less good.


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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work