Report: Consumers Substituting Online TV for Cable

Nearly a fifth of Internet users watch video online almost every day. Women are catching up to men in terms of online video usage. And a growing number of recession-conscious Americans claim they are using the Web as a cable TV substitute.

Those are some of the more noteworthy research nuggets found in the latest report issued on Wednesday (July 29) by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, which focused specifically on online video. According to the report, 19 percent of Internet users surveyed claim they visit video sites in a typical day, up from 8 percent just three years ago.

And while Web video continues to skew young and male, in the past year the gender gap has closed, found Pew. This year’s report found that 59 percent of women visit video sites versus 65 percent of men. However, just a year ago only 46 percent of women made the same claim compared to 57 percent of men. Overall, online video viewing is becoming a core Web activity for most: close to two-thirds (62 percent) of adults have watched videos on sites like YouTube, considerably more than the 46 percent of adults who say they active on social-networking sites and far more than the 11 percent adults who regularly use Twitter, found Pew.

Not surprisingly, given the surging popularity of professional content on sites like Hulu, Pew’s report found that many Web video users are graduating past the short, funny viral clips which helped establish the medium just a few years ago. More than one-third of Internet users (35 percent) claim to have streamed a TV show or movie online, versus just 16 percent in 2007, according to the report. Pew’s research found that watching long-form professional still tends to be a behavior favored by younger users (61 percent of internet users ages 18-29 claim to have done so), though older demographics are catching up.

And in these tough economic times, for some viewing shows for free online is becoming an attractive alternative to paying for cable. According to a recent Pew report, 22 percent of American adults say they have cut back or cancelled cable in the past year (while only 9 percent have cut back on paying for Internet services). And within that cable-cutting segment, almost a third—32 percent—say they’ve taken the step of connecting their computers to their TV to consume Web video, a step that until recently has proven to be intimidating to most Americans.

Overall, a total of 8 percent of Internet users claim to have connected their TVs to the Internet, according to Pew’s report—the majority of which were men.