Online video views growing, but who's watching when is a little surprising

Jim O'Neil

A lot of words were spent this week talking about Nielsen's semi-annual Three Screen Report that noted 35 percent more people were watching television and using their computers simultaneously in the 4th quarter of 2009 than in the previous quarter, and that nearly 60 percent use the Internet while watching TV at least once a month. Nielsen's Matt O'Grady said the numbers show that the Internet doesn't actually cannibalize TV viewers, it adds another level of involvement to their experiences.

"The initial fear was that Internet and mobile video and entertainment would slowly cannibalize traditional TV viewing, but the steady trend of increased TV viewership alongside expanded simultaneous usage argues something quite different," he said.

Some of the other numbers in the report were less noticed because of the fuss made over the buffet-style viewing habits that seems to be proliferating as we more technology overlaps. There's little doubt that the numbers would also show that much of that Internet usage was by people accessing the Web over their smartphones and, after April 3 when all those iPads start arriving at doorsteps all over America, the buffet is going to grow an order of magnitude.

Some of the other numbers in the report that didn't get as much attention are possibly even more interesting.

Not only did online video consumption grow 16 percent from a year ago to an average of 3 hours and 22 minutes each month (and an additional four minutes of online video on mobile phones), almost 44 percent of it was watched in the workplace. Let's assume some of it was instructional and not all YouTube.

Heaviest users of online video? No surprise, 18-24 year olds watch an average of 6 hours and 35 minutes, although they make up just 9 percent of the audience; 25-34 year olds watch 4 hours and 58 minutes and comprise 15 percent of the audience, and 35-49 year olds watch 3 hours and 40 minutes of video and make up the largest audience segment, 30 percent.

Finally, talk about time-shifted video; while TV's traditional prime time is 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., the online video world works on a different clock. Want to take a guess? No, it's not midnight to 4 a.m., its noon to 6 p.m., with a peak at 4 p.m. Go figure. -Jim