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The TV Is Dead, Long Live the Web?

The TV Is Dead, Long Live the Web?

Nineteen percent of consumers polled in a recent IBM survey said they spend six or more hours a day online; 9 percent of those surveyed spend a like amount of time watching television. Twenty-three percent of respondents reported using a portable music service such as iTunes and 18 percent have an online newspaper subscription.

The Internet is beginning to overtake TV as the preferred medium of consumers around the globe, according to a new survey sponsored by IBM.

In the survey of more than 2,400 households in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and Australia, the IBM Institute for Business Value found that 19 percent of consumers said they spend six or more hours a day on the Internet, compared with only 9 percent who spend a like amount of time watching TV.

Sixty percent reported spending between one and four hours on the Internet each day, while just slightly more -- 66 percent -- spend that much time watching TV.

"The Internet is becoming consumers' primary entertainment source," said Saul Berman, IBM media and entertainment strategy and change practice leader.

Voice of Youth

Not surprisingly, that trend is particularly pronounced among young consumers, the study found.

"The TV is increasingly taking a back seat to the cell phone and the personal computer among consumers age 18 to 34," Berman explained. "Just as the 'Kool Kids' and 'Gadgetiers' have replaced traditional landlines with mobile communications, cable and satellite TV subscriptions risk a similar fate of being replaced as the primary source of content access."

IBM conducted the survey in June via the Internet.

Wireless and In Control

The survey also asked consumers what types of electronic devices they use, and found that 23 percent of respondents reported using a portable music service such as iTunes; seven percent reported having a video content subscription for their mobile phones; 11 percent reported a PC-based music service; and 18 percent reported an online newspaper subscription.

"Consumers are demonstrating their desire for both wired and wireless access to content: An average of 81 percent of consumers surveyed globally indicated they've watched or want to watch PC video, and an average of 42 percent indicated they've watched or want to watch mobile video," said Bill Battino, communications sector managing partner for IBM Global Business Services.

"Given the rising power of individuals and communities, media and entertainment industry players will have to become much better at providing permission-based advertising and related consumer-driven ratings services," he noted.

New Roles

Indeed, as computer prices fall and increasing numbers of people use the Internet every day, IBM predicts that advertisers are going to have to make drastic changes to the way they communicate with consumers in order to reach them. Consumers want control of attention, content and creativity, IBM said, and advertisers will have to respond.

"IBM sees advertising agencies going beyond traditional creative roles to become brokers of consumer insights; cable companies evolving to home media portals; and broadcasters and publishers racing toward new media formats. Marketers in turn are being forced to experiment and make advertising more compelling, or risk being ignored," the company said.

Variations on a Theme

While the fact that the study was conducted on the Internet no doubt had some effect on the results, since consumers who aren't online wouldn't have been included, the results do tend to match up with the results of some other recent surveys.

Last fall, for example, a Burst survey of U.S. college students found that 34 percent of such students spend more than 10 hours a week on the Internet, compared with only 19 percent who spend as much time with radio or TV.

On the advertising front, meanwhile, an early August report from private equity firm Veronis Suhler Stevenson and research firm PQ Media predicts that Internet advertising will reach US$61.98 billion by 2011, surpassing newspapers as the nation's largest ad medium.

Control Freaks

"Young people are consuming media very differently than older ones do," Paul Gillin, blogger, podcaster and author of The New Influencers, told the E-Commerce Times. "The Internet is a part of their lifestyle -- they regard it as a utility, and they know how to use it more intuitively than their parents do."

Control is at the heart of the issue, Gillin agreed. "The beauty of the Internet is that it is completely on-demand," he said. "People want information when they want to consume it, and they don't want someone else to tell them what they can see and when. That was part of the tyranny of the networks, and people are breaking free of it."

As IBM concludes, the result could be a host of new challenges for marketers.

A Complicated World

"Across all media audiences are fragmenting, making the world much more complicated for marketers," Greg Sterling, founder of Sterling Market Intelligence, told the E-Commerce Times.

"Marketers have for a while been trying out rich media, search, and other advertising vehicles, but nothing has been perfected so far," he noted. "Search is historically the most successful of new strategies, but it's not simple. Much of online advertising is still very experimental for many of these companies, and it's not clear yet what works best."

It's also not clear TV audiences are going away, Sterling added, given that other studies have found TV still holds a dominant position.

The Opposing View

"I don't think the Internet is making television obsolete, or that people favor the Internet over TV," said Leo Kivijarv, vice president of research for PQ Media.

"Other data indicates the opposite, and TV is unique in that it requires engagement for a minimum of a half an hour, or two to three hours for sports fans," Kivijarv told the E-Commerce Times. "The Internet is more popular at work, but people will still spend almost twice as much time watching TV."

Ultimately, as video is increasingly delivered over the Internet, the question of which medium will win may disappear.

A Disappearing Distinction

"What is television?" asked David Hallerman, a senior analyst with eMarketer. "As more video comes online, and when TV gets delivered over the Internet, is that Internet advertising or TV advertising?

"By the time the $75 billion U.S. advertisers spend on TV ads starts to lose ground in any meaningful way," Hallerman concluded, "the two media will more mixed."

In other words, TV advertising and Internet advertising may end up one and the same.


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