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Survey: Consumer Are Viewing More TV Online

New York — Online TV viewership is growing, with nearly one-fifth of American households using the Internet to watch TV broadcasts online, double the number from 2006, according to a new report from market research firms the Conference Board and TNS.

“The shift from appointment TV to content on demand is well underway,” said Michael Saxon, senior VP, brand and communications, TNS. “Fundamentally, consumers expect content to be available when they want it, and on the screen of their choice — TV, PC or mobile. For consumers, PCs enhance content on demand from simply time-shifting to place-shifting. Online content can be viewed in any room in the house, or at work or school.”

The report is based on a quarterly survey of 70,000 households, called the Consumer Internet Barometer, conducted during the third quarter of 2008.

The ability to watch a broadcast at any time rather than according to a broadcast schedule was reported as the top reason why consumer choose to watch TV shows inline. Other reasons included a desire to avoid commercials and portability.

“Most consumers are pressed for time and require flexibility in their daily schedules and TV viewing habits,” says Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center. “Being able to watch broadcasts on their own time and at their convenience are clearly reasons why we are seeing a greater number turning to the Internet. And, it is the reason why we would expect to see this trend continue.”

The researchers found that the top two destinations for online broadcasts are official TV channel homepages, accessed by 65 percent of online viewers, and, accessed by 41 percent of viewers.

The surveyors found that nearly 72 percent of households with Internet access logged on for entertainment purposes on a daily basis, and one in 10 cited entertainment as the most important reason for their Internet activity.

In terms of viewing methods, 68 percent of online TV viewers said they used streaming video, 38 percent said they had used free downloads. Other popular sources for content cited by respondents were iTunes, Hulu, file-sharing sites, social-networking sites and Limewire. The surveyors said, “Few consumers are willing to enroll in pay-per-download and subscription services.”

The genres that proved most popular online among respondents were, in order, news (43 percent), drama (39 percent), sitcom/comedy (34 percent), reality shows (23 percent), sports (16 percent) and user-generated content (15 percent).

Among online TV viewers, the survey found almost 90 percent watch online broadcasts at home; about 15 percent said they watch Internet broadcasts in the office, and 6 percent said they watch TV online from other locations.