Consumers Are Wrestling With How Best to 'Place-Shift'

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CHICAGO ( -- Analog or digital? Forty-inch LCD HD TV or 1.5-inch cellphone screen? Time-shift or place-shift? These are among the decisions consumers must make. Special Reports Managing Editor Dan Lippe talked to Joseph Bates, director of research at Consumer Electronics Association, about the video consumer in control. Below is an edited transcript.

What does it say about a consumer base whose interests range from rear-projection TVs to video iPods?

Consumers are eager to have control over their content, so there absolutely are situations where they want to watch high-definition TV in the living room. ... [But there's also] a trend to portability.

Are Wi-Fi and portability turning the computer into another on-the-go medium?

It's definitely a contender. ... We already know that people want to be able to work in various places, so they don't want to be constrained by the place when they're doing that. It's a natural progression that when these people are on-the-go with their computer, which has a fairly nice size screen, they then also want to watch video.

The challenge for content providers and advertisers must be that they can't look at all these screens as interchangeable.

True. Right now, what you see is content providers experimenting with what is going to work. ... In the next year or two, we're going to have a clearer picture of what works on what screen. You need to consider how much time a person is going to be on-the-go. ... Depending on how they run the advertising, are they going to embed the commercials or are they going to get their revenue from the paid downloads?

With these smaller screens, there seems to be the trend of what might be called "place-shifting." What's the comparative impact of the time- and place-shifting phenomena?

Consumers are more interested in the time-shifting aspect. But that could be simply a factor of the newness of place-shifting. We have had time-shifting since the advent of the VCR, so people are very comfortable [with time-shifting] whereas people are still figuring out place-shifting.

Can all these screens co-exist in harmony, or will some start to cannibalize sales of others?

I don't see sales of some cannibalizing others. It's more [a case of] an expanding market. But people only have 24 hours in a day, and presumably they sleep a portion of that. ... I don't think [consumers] think: "Should I time-shift or place-shift?" They just think about "What am I doing and what else would I like to be doing at that time?"
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