Despite the fact that high-speed Internet access has yetto take a firm hold with the vast majority of the wired public, measurement firm Nielsen//NetRatingsreported Tuesday that streaming media consumption soared 65 percent over the past year.
According to the report, arecord 35 million online users accessed streaming content in November,and more than a third of all Internet usersviewed some form of streaming content during the month.
Nielsen//NetRatings said the significant growth was fueled in part by therecent spate of compelling newsworthy events, including the Olympics and thecontested U.S. presidential election, as users took to the Net in droves to findspecialized audio and video content.
“Historically, branding opportunities have been limited to high-profileevents in television, radio and print, but now streaming media is wooing andwinning eyeballs on the Web,” said NetRatings director of Internet mediastrategies T.S. Kelly.
Kelly also noted that other streaming media vehicles — such as movietrailers, commercials and full-length feature films — are experiencingaggressive demand.
Cutting the Media Pie
Underscoring the growing influence of women on the Internet, Nielsen//NetRatings also found that an increasing number of women viewed streaming content over the past 12 months. Roughly 16 million women accessed streaming files in November of this year, a 77 percent surge from last November’s figure of 9 million.
Similarly, 19 million men watched streaming content in November 2000, a 56 percent jump from November 1999.
The most notable growth, however, was experienced among seniors over the ageof 65, with 1.4 million unique visitors in that age bracket clicking on some form of streamingmedia. The figure represents a 95 percent spike from last year.
When usage data was broken down demographically, researchers said thatAfrican-Americans saw the most dramatic growth, with 3.5 million uniqueusers in November representing a 118 percent increase. The numbers outpacedusage rates among Caucasian surfers, a demographic that included significantly more streaming mediausers — upwards of 30 million — but a slower growth rate of 64 percent.
Nielsen//NetRatings also said that the current streaming media surge is aharbinger of things to come. In the near future, analysts forecast thatcontent providers will utilize a broad array of cutting-edge technology inorder to meet the demands of increasingly sophisticated Net users.
“What we’re seeing now are the first steps toward convergence,” saidKelley. “As the popularity of streaming media grows, television and radiocompanies are beginning to produce content that captures the Web user,leveraging different media to reach their target audience.”
Accordingly, researchers said that those with high-speed Internetconnections are 50 percent more likely to access streaming media contentthan their dial-up counterparts.
Net Growth Driver
The new findings from Nielsen//NetRatings dovetail with a recent report from U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray, which concluded thatstreaming media will drive the next wave of Internet growth as the qualityof multimedia content available online becomes more refined.
According to the study, the total spending on Web streaming media will topUS$21 billion in 2004, a more than two-fold increase over the $9.7 billionspent in 1999.
In order to compile its statistics, Nielsen//NetRatings collected real-timedata from more than 70,000 online users, including 62,000 in-home users and8,000 at-work users.