Is Online Video Ready For Primetime?
Are people ready to give up their traditional television viewing habits and spend significant amounts of time with the emerging technology behind online video?
These numbers from eMarketer certainly indicate rapid household penetration growth of online video, with at least 50% of US households expected to watch online video in 2008, up from less than 20% four years ago.
However experimenting and watching a YouTube clip here and there is one thing, but truly replacing significant amounts of television usage is something else entirely.
Michael Estrin at iMedia Connection has done some informal qualitative research to see if online video is ready for primetime, by gathering together a small group of twentysomethings who weren’t heavy online video users, then showing them some examples of different online video services, and then discussing their merits and shortcomings.
Here are some key insights from the discussions:
Expectations for online video are low (the YouTube effect)
With its buffering and the amateurish quality of most of the content, YouTube doesn’t fit with what people are looking for from long time frame entertainment:
“If I want to be entertained, I sit down on the couch,” says one participant, “this other stuff [short clips on YouTube] is just for killing time at work.”
Response is better with more professional sites that feature professional quality content (such as Joost)
While sites such as Joost have better quality content and a more technologically sophisticated interface, the lack of more popular TV shows and videos is disappointing:
“We open the Comedy Central channel and disappointment sets in. ‘It’s got everything you don’t want to watch,’ Todd says.”
The television advertising that was hidden by Tivo is now back
Other sites such as Veoh have some of the more popular shows available, however to people accustomed to using DVRs to skip ads, viewing pre-rolls was a disappointment:
“I could just as easily watch this on TV without the ads because I have TiVo”
In the end, while participation and interest in online video is certainly increasing, its ability to garner significant amounts of viewer’s time is still being constrained by expectations and technology. Michael Estrin summarizes it this way:
“There’s something terribly basic about TV from a user perspective. You watch the show, the ads come on, you go get a snack, and you watch the rest of your show. But while internet video may look a lot like TV (assuming the content and the quality make their way to the computer screen), the advertiser/user relationship is something quite different.”
While this could all change with media providers moving beyond dabbling and getting serious with online video, people probably won’t be getting rid of their television sets any time soon.