Online Video Not a Priority

NEW YORK While most consumers now consider the personal computer to be their “must have” electronic communications device—TV is a distant second—watching video on it is not a primary task.

According to research from the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau, watching online video ranks just seventh among users’ main PC activities.

That’s one finding of the study, released this week, which examines how consumers view video on devices such as PCs, iPods and mobile phones compared to how they watch traditional television.

The study also indicated that ads are not interchangeable among different video platforms: The smaller the screen, the less tolerant viewers are of lengthy commercials.

Those surveyed said TV ads as long as 42 seconds were tolerable. But on PCs and laptops, the tolerance level dropped to 18 seconds. And for cell phones, ads longer than nine seconds are not acceptable.

After meeting with ad agencies for input, CAB, the cable TV trade organization, commissioned consulting firm Frank N. Magid Associates to conduct the study, which included an online survey of 2,101 participants.

“In the media business we all see consumers that are hyper-connected,” said CAB president Sean Cunningham. “But the idea of video being a multi-device, ubiquitously juggled thing, for the average person, we’re just not there yet.”

The bottom line, he said, is that “screens are not interchangeable, video is not interchangeable and advertising is not interchangeable.”

The CAB has briefed some agency executives on the results. Susan Nathan, svp, director of media knowledge at Interpublic Group’s Universal McCann, said, “The data that comes out of this supports the fact that most people actually like their entertainment on a big screen television set and that people’s patience with seeing video is somewhat limited if they’re watching on a smaller screen.”

Only 30 percent said they had one “extra screen device” (beyond a TV and computer) used for watching video. In most cases (80 percent) that device was a video-enabled phone. Just 10 percent said they had two extra screens.

Only 12 percent of those with video-enabled phones said they used it for that purpose. Talking, text messaging, Web surfing, listening to music, photography and playing games all ranked higher on the usage scale.

More than 60 percent said they preferred watching video on TV rather than on a computer or an iPod-like device. Most said non-TV devices were best suited for watching short clips, not long-form entertainment.

Cunningham said the results were similar among younger and older age groups.

“The study isn’t saying video doesn’t work on smaller devices,” said Cunningham. “But it does show that only a small percentage of the population consists of what I would call ‘device athletes.’ And it shows that there are different rules of the road about video acceptability by device.”

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to the computer becoming a major platform for long-form entertainment, said Cunningham, is consumer perception. “It reminds them of work,” he said.