Americans' appetite for Web video, from clips shared on YouTube to TV programs and movies, continues to soar, nearly doubling since 2006, according to a report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project released Wednesday.
"The audience for online video-sharing sites like YouTube and Google Video continues to grow swiftly across all demographic groups, far outpacing the adoption rates of many other Internet activities," Pew said. "Fully 62 percent of adult Internet users have watched a video on these sites, up from 33 percent" in December 2006, when Pew last measured such activity.
"Over time, online video has become more deeply integrated into daily life, and has started to move into the spaces that are typically reserved for traditional television viewing," Pew said. "Overall, 19 percent of Internet users say they use video-sharing sites on a typical day," compared to just 8 percent in 2006.
Pew attributed the increase in large part to 63 percent of Americans now having high-speed Internet connections at home, and among broadband users, 69 percent "watch video on sharing sites" such as YouTube, and 23 percent "do so on a typical day."
Also, 35 percent of Internet users say they have viewed a TV show or movie online, compared to 16 percent who said they watched or downloaded movies or TV shows in 2007, Pew said.
The use of video-sharing sites far outranks other Internet activities, including social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, or tweeting on Twitter, the microblogging site, Pew found. Forty-six percent of adult Internet users are active on social networking sites, 19 percent download podcasts and 11 percent use "status updating" sites such as Twitter, the study said.
"Online video has evolved into an on-demand Internet activity," said Mary Madden, Pew Internet Project senior research specialist. "It’s an extremely powerful medium — the killer app of Web 2.0."
Pew said that "while much of the content on video-sharing sites is user-generated, there is also a growing archive of professional content available through YouTube and newer network-sponsored video portals such as Hulu," which went online in spring 2008 and is a joint effort between General Electric Co.'s NBC Universal and News Corp. (Msnbc.com is a Microsoft-NBC Universal joint venture.)
The appeal of online video is also evidenced by comScore's Video Metrix report last spring, which found that Internet users in the United States viewed 14.5 billion — yes, billion — online videos during March, an increase of 11 percent over February.
Google sites, including YouTube, as well as Fox Interactive Media, Yahoo and Hulu were among the top online video properties, comScore said. In March, "the average online video viewer watch 327 minutes of video, or nearly 5.5 hours," the company said.
Mobile video viewing
Pew also said there is "growing interest in mobile video viewing" by more cell phone users, with 14 percent saying they have watched video on their phones, compared to 10 percent in 2007.
"Cell phone users are more likely to record video on their cell phones than they are to watch it; 19 percent of cell phone users now say they have recorded video with their phone," Pew said.
More and more mobiles — from flip phones to smartphones — are coming equipped with video-recording capabilities.
"Video-sharing capability is increasingly being hard-wired into the mobile devices we carry with us all the time," said Madden. "So, while online video is far from replacing traditional TV viewing, the barriers to entry for new users are very low, and the sheer amount and diversity of content out there to watch is staggering."
Watching on the big screen
A small number of Americans are also watching TV and movies by using their computers for video content and hooking their computers up to large-screen TVs for viewing "from the comfort of their couch," Pew said.
Among those who watch TV or movies online, 23 percent say they have done this, although Pew said it is mainly men who are more likely to hook up the computer to the TV, and who are "almost twice as likely (as women) to rearrange the living room in this regard."
Driving the computer-to-TV video interest may be the recession.
"Americans who have cut back on cable or TV expenses are more likely to watch online video on their televisions," Pew said. In another recent report, Pew found that 22 percent of Americans say they have cut back on their cable or TV services over the past year, but only 9 percent said they cut back on their Internet service.
"Those who have canceled or cut back on cable and TV services are more likely to have 'rerouted' their online video viewing to their television screen," Pew said. "Among this economizing group ... 32 percent have connected their computer to their TV screen to watch Internet video."
"I think it’s interesting to see that the convergence of the Internet and the TV that many experts have predicted is marching ahead and may have received a boost from those who have cut back on cable costs due to the recession," Madden said. "Another nudge consumers have experienced recently is the digital TV transition, which has prompted many Americans to purchase high-definition TVs" for improved viewing quality.
Reaching all age ranges
Those in the 18-to-29 age range "continue to lead the adoption curve in online video viewing," Pew said in its report, based on interviews with 2,253 adults between March 26 and April 19.
Nine out of 10 Internet users in that age range use video-sharing sites, compared to 72 percent a year ago. "On a typical day ... 36 percent of young adult Internet users watched video on these sites, compared with just 30 percent in 2008," Pew said.
Those ages 30 to 49 "also showed big gains over the past year," with 67 percent now using video-sharing sites, compared to 57 percent last year.
"Online video viewing is still far from being the norm among Internet users ages 50 and older," Pew said, adding, "However, this segment of the Internet audience continues to grow each year."
Among Internet users ages 50 to 64, 41 percent said they watch video on sites such as YouTube, up from 34 percent last year, Pew said. "Likewise, 27 percent of wired seniors ages 65 and older now access video on these sites, compared with just 19 percent who were doing so at this time last year."