Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

TV or Web Video? Now, Finally, We’re Starting To Choose.

The weird thing about the Web video boom is that it doesn’t seem to have cut into the TV business: Much to the relief of many well-paid people, TV viewing has gone up even as Web video usage has gone up. Put us in front of a screen, and we’ll watch it.

But that can’t hold up forever, of course. Eventually, we’ll run out of time and start picking one screen instead of another. And here’s some evidence that it’s starting to happen: New research from Nielsen that shows that the more Web video you watch, the less time you spend on traditional TV.

These two charts compare Web video streaming consumption versus TV consumption, and they map quite neatly — the time Web video watchers spend online seems to come directly out of their TV habit:

And that effect gets more pronounced if you look at 18 to 34 year olds, the subset of the population that’s grown up with YouTube, iTunes, Netflix, etc.

This is common sense, of course. But that doesn’t make it any less pleasant for TV executives, who have been telling themselves and their advertisers that Web video is additive, not competitive.

Still, this isn’t happening overnight, and in the meantime video consumption on all screens, including mobile, is still going up in aggregate.

And boy oh boy, do we all collectively watch a whole lot of television: Nearly 159 hours per month, or nearly 40 hours per week. That’s a freaky statistic but comforting for the TV guys: Their business isn’t going away any time soon.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik