Study: PCs nearly as popular as TVs for movie watching

editor's corner

Jim O'Neill

Perhaps it's due to my advanced age, but watching a movie on an iPod or iPhone has never--even on a long flight--been one of my favorite activities. An iPad, yes, but I'd still prefer to watch it on my big screen TV at home with surround sound, my feet kicked up and a bucket of popcorn in my lap.

My college-aged sons? Not so much. They'll watch content on anything, especially their laptops, Droids or iPods.

That's why a new study from Epix, the offspring of a union between Viacom (NYSE:VIA), its Paramount Pictures unit, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios and Lionsgate (NYSE:LGF) doesn't really surprise me, but it's interesting to see some metrics nonetheless.

Here's the nut graph from the study, released today at the Cable Show in Chicago: Viewers between the ages of 25 to 34 are significantly more likely to use video-capable iPods (24 percent), iPads and tablet computers (21 percent), smartphones (21 percent) and netbooks (15 percent) to watch movies than viewers between 35 to 64 years old.

What's still a little surprising is that the study also found that "personal computers have fully emerged as a commonly used means for movie viewing," calling them "nearly as popular as televisions," with seven out of eight respondents indicating that they watch movies on computers.

"The results of this study illustrate the fact that consumers are increasingly accessing entertainment content wherever and whenever it is available and underscore the growing opportunities in cable to adapt to these changing viewing habits by providing movies and other content on every platform," said Mark Greenberg, president and CEO of Epix. "Epix is working closely with our operator partners to help them deliver our content to subscribers whether it's on TV, on demand, online and now on new devices with apps. As movie consumption on new devices continues to grow in popularity, we remain focused on providing our authenticated subscribers access to the best content and extra features in all the ways they want it."

There have been a number of survey of late that say, despite loud "nays" from some parts of the industry, that one of the biggest threats to pay-TV isn't necessarily cord cutters, but cord never-weres, those young adults who find no value in a TV service that might cost them upwards of $1,000 a year to have.

The Epix survey, despite its own ties to the pay-TV industry (it's offered as a premium channel by many pay-TV service providers, has apps for download on more than 100 CE and mobile devices), tends to support that, and it helps illustrate the dilemma facing operators as services like Netflix and Hulu Plus continue to gain subscribers.

And that's why so many hybrid services are being introduced at the Show this year and why TV Everywhere has finally fully shown up on operators' radar. But, even though more operators are planning to provide more content online in an effort to appease the masses of folks who have become enamored with watching content on an iPad or other mobile device, how are they going to battle the perception that Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) for $9 and Hulu for $8, and movies for a couple of bucks a night don't provide a better value than a pay-TV service?

Sports? Available on over-the-air TV. The latest episode of The Office? Wait a day and watch it on Hulu.

Of course, as Azuki Systems President and CEO John Clancy told me this morning, what may be a saving grace for operators is that consumers have too many options, and that paradox of choice may prompt them to choose the easiest one.

"At the end of the day we, as consumers, are pretty lazy, right? When you walk into your living room and just hit one button and it lights up, that's pretty compelling," Clancy said. "So we think as you move to the next stage, the classic optimization/ubiquity stage of any disruptive technology, that it won't be the set-top box versus OTT, it'll probably be the perfect marriage of the two, with the benefits of a managed network and the freedom of choice on unmanaged delivery over the top."

Clancy has a point. Can TV Everywhere really deliver it all? It can.--Jim