Note: Some of the content in this post is taken from “The State of Online Video” report. Download the complete report here.
There has been so much hype and talk about over-the-top (OTT) video services like Netflix the past months that you would think traditional, linear broadcast television is dead. But that is far from the case.
According to eMarketer (Figure 1), although online video consumption has grown annually (some times as high as 70%), the majority of video (approximately 85% in 2015) is still via the television. In fact, looking at the graph above, online video consumption has actually been slowing down even as it eats into traditional TV time.
Still, we can’t deny the fact that there is a fundamental evolution happening. Carrying eMarketer’s graph to its logical conclusion, we could argue that at some point in the distant future, online video will replace traditional television. What we once considered the “broadcast television experience” will eventually migrate to online delivery.
This evolutionary shift is exactly what we wanted to explore in our recent survey and report, The State of Online Video. For this report, we surveyed over 1200 consumers from the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Australia across a wide range of topics related to online video including:
- How much they watched
- From what devices they primarily consume content
- What frustrates them about watching it
- How they feel about advertising
What we uncovered were some startling results that point to a generational shift in how video content is consumed—younger Millennials (18-25) not only consume more online video content, but they do so from more devices, and they are much more forgiving when it comes to online video frustration (as a result of buffering).
Younger Millennials Consume More Video Content
Although online video is clearly becoming an increasingly large portion of Internet traffic, and despite a seemingly growing preponderance of cord cutters, linear broadcast still accounts for the vast majority of the “television” experience.
But if our survey results are any indication, a shift has already happened and is being propelled generationally. When asked how much online video they watch each week, the majority of consumers (Figure 3) indicated 1-2 hours per week.
Figure 2: How Much Online Video Do you Watch Each Week Respondents (18-25)
Figure 3: How much Online Video Do You Watch Each Week Respondents (18+)
And yet when we correlate the data against demographics, it appears that as the respondents skew younger (Figure 2) the more online video they watch, with the majority indicating 4-7 hours per week. Based on this data, it might be said that the younger Millennials represent a “tipping point” for television—a transition from traditional, broadcast delivery to online—which will only continue to accelerate with subsequent generations that grow up with the availability of content anywhere, anytime, from any device.
Devices are the Gateway to More Online Video
Each year the proliferation of mobile devices such as smartphones continue to increase as Figure 4 illustrates (developed using data from the Consumer Electronics Association and the U.S. Census Bureau).
Figure 4: Smartphone sales in the United States from 2005 to 2015 (in billions)
But according to our survey results, despite the growing popularity of smartphones and other mobile devices, the personal computer is still the preferred means by which to consume online video (Figure 5).
Figure 5: From which device do you watch online video? (Rank in order of frequency, 10=most frequent)
But much like online video itself, the device used to consume content is a generational activity as well. As the demographic skews younger (18-25), smartphone increases significantly in usage (by approximately 10%) indicating that it may well take over the laptop/PC as the predominant device to consume online video content over the next five to ten years.
Buffering Frustration Decreases with Age
The length and number of times a video buffers has long been linked to abandonment rates. According to a 2012 study from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, for example, audience abandonment increases with buffering—viewers begin to disappear after a two second delay with 6% leaving each second thereafter. The data from the university study correlates with what we discovered from our survey respondents—buffering is the number-one cause of frustration when watching online video (Figure 6).
Figure 6: What is the most frustrating aspect of watching video online? (Rank in order of frustration, 10=most frustrating)
But where the university study examined the impact of the length of time of a buffering event on abandonment rates, we looked at the other side of the coin—the number of buffering events. What we found when we asked the question, “how many times will you allow a video to buffer before abandoning,” was startling.
Figure 7: How many times can an online video buffer before you abandon it? (Select one) respondents aged 18-25
Figure 8: How many times can an online video buffer before you abandon it? (Select one) respondents aged 18+
As indicated by Figure 7 and 8, the majority of all respondents (Figure 8) would allow a video to buffer twice before abandoning but when the demographic skewed younger (Figure 7), the majority was willing to allow a video to buffer three times before leaving. This insinuates that younger Millennials have a much higher “frustration threshold” than the general population perhaps indicative of a deeper understanding (or forgiveness) of the technology required to enable online video.
Online video, while growing in leaps and bounds, represents a complicated set of consumer behaviors that is exacerbated by demographic segments. Although we asked a wide variety of questions spanning attitudes towards cable providers, online video consumption activities, and even about advertising in online video, we still don’t have a complete picture of consumer behavior.
What is abundantly clear is that we are witnessing a tipping point in the traditional television experience as younger generations skew towards watching more online video, using more OTT services, and posting video to more places.
In short, younger Millennials are embracing online video as the primary means by which to consume and share content and are, by that nature, driving significant change in the way that everyone experiences traditional broadcast television. It will be interesting to see, over the next decade, how prevalent these behaviors become in subsequent generations and the impact they have on behaviors outside of those generations that already embrace this new experience.
For more information about these findings and other results from the study, we invite you to download the complete report.