Google TV, Apple TV, iPads, a revolution of online video products fueled by Boomer buying power

Jim O'Neill, FierceOnlineVideo editorI am a Baby Boomer. Class of '55, I get AARP magazine, but am still reluctant to ask for the 5 percent discount a local bakery gives "seniors" over 50. I find myself reaching for my reading glasses when my smartphone rings, otherwise I can't read the caller ID and decide whether I'm in or not, and I have to hold my GPS at arm's length to find out how far from the green I am on the golf course.

I've always believed myself to be a little more tech savvy than other Boomers, and I tend to be the first on my block to get the newest toys.

iPhone? Got it in week 1, dumped it for a BlackBerry Storm when AT&T's service proved to be less reliable than I'd hoped (3G was Zero G where I live), and dumped the Storm for a Droid in its first week on the market. My sons tend to rake in the castoffs, happily displaying their prizes to their buddies.

Apple iPad? Delivered to my doorstep the first day it was available. I have a MacBookPro, an HP laptop running Windows "just in case," an iMac with a second 30" screen hooked up to it, an Xbox 360, Roku, three Flip video cameras, a Canon video camera with SSD and a Canon GL2 that was cutting edge when I bought it, Cisco's Valet, and an Orb Caster, not to mention a dozen other pieces of digital flotsam and jetsam that seems to stream by my desk. (Note to self: get a rider on the home insurance for all this stuff.)

As I said, I've always assumed my attachment to tech gear put me in a different class, that it made me a silicon aficionado of sorts.

Nope. Turns out, I'm just another Boomer, which is good news for Google TV, Roku, Apple TV and all the rest of the tech companies looking to turn online video into a major cash cow.

The Baby Boomer generation spends more on technology than any other single group, according to Forrester Research, which said Boomers spent more on monthly telecom fees, gadgets and devices and even on online shopping than Gen X or Gen Y.

Of course we do, it's imprinted in our generational DNA. We're the generation that first used calculators in college, played with Commodore 64s, and later integrated PCs and Macs into the workplace.

For every teenager who asked for an Xbox or PlayStation for Christmas, there was a dad more than willing to convince mom that it was the right thing to get Junior. And, yes, we have an Xbox 360 hooked up, even though both of our boys are away at college. Now, it is generally used to play a DVD or stream a movie from Netflix, splitting time with the Roku box.

Ten years ago, a quarter of Boomers (those aged 46-64) used to get on the Internet daily; today it's seven in 10; social media usage has increased by 88 percent. Boomers also increasingly are watching online video, an eMarketer report this summer said 58 percent of 45- 54-year-olds watch online video, saying that number will rise to 68 percent by 2014.

But, judging by the accelerating array of options available, from Hulu to Google TV to Netflix and new services like ivi TV--I think that's a conservative number.

Case in point: Sunday, my cable connection (oh, Charter, how I really don't love you) went into a trance during the Lions' game. I went into my office and watched the Giants on ivi TV instead. When we still didn't have cable on Monday, my wife watched Dancing with the Stars live on ivi TV and caught up with Castle on Hulu as well.

My father's generation, "The Greatest Generation," went through the Great Depression, won a world war, built an interstate highway system, cured Polio and changed the way we lived forever. Boomers have taken heat for living in the lap of prosperity, disco, ushering in the Great Recession, and being hell bent on standing up to authority (read: we don't really get along well with others, which is why so many of us have turned to "consulting"). But, we certainly know how to spend money. For the online video industry, that's a big plus. -Jim

Suggested Articles

Alan Wolk, co-founder and lead analyst at TV[R]EV, examines the work ahead for HBO Max after a leadership shake-up and the market impact of Locast.

After a prolonged period of uncertainty about subscriber totals for virtual MVPDs, 2020 has been the year of transparency for streaming TV services.

Virtual MVPD fuboTV posted a net loss of $99.8 million during the second quarter as its subscriber count held mostly steady.