The study found that almost one in three heavy YouTube users say they are watching less TV as a result of the time spent on the site. YouTube visits also cuts into time spent on other sites, on e-mail, online social networking, doing work and homework and video-gaming. But before this turns into another TV-is-dead story, those numbers should be put into perspective.
Breaking down the numbers
A quick crunch of the figures: According to 2005 Pew Internet and American Life project, about 147 million American adults are online. According to Harris Interactive, four in 10 online American adults have watched a video on YouTube -- that would be 58.8 million for those of you keeping track at home. And Harris reports that 14% of those are self-admitted "frequent users" -- that's just more than 8 million Americans. So one-third of those frequent YouTube viewers equals about 2.7 million. While 2.7 million people spending less time in front of the other tube is nothing to sneeze at, that kind of viewer migration is far from tolling the end of TV.
Still, it includes a heavy concentration of young males -- already a difficult-to-reach TV viewer. Harris reports 41% of 18 to 24-year-old males watch YouTube frequently.
Here's some good news for the TV networks: While 42% of Americans have watched a video on YouTube, 41% have watched video on a TV network's website. Of course, less than half as many 18- to 24-year-olds have viewed video on a TV network site than on YouTube, but in older demographics the numbers are more even. News sites, such as CNN.com, come in third with about 35% of Americans having watched videos, and Yahoo, Google and MySpace follow at 25%, 24% and 23%, respectively.
Of course, Americans are still very good at multitasking when it comes to media consumption. EMarketer today noted in a report that two-thirds of U.S. adult internet users watched TV while online. And its report cited similar multitasking studies by Yahoo and media agency OMD, which highlighted that consumers pack 43 hours worth of activity into a 24-hour day, and one from MTV, which was slightly more conservative with an estimate that a normal day includes 32 hours of activity, thanks to multitasking. To prove its point, eMarketer also quoted private equity investor Veronis Suhler Stevenson, which said U.S. consumers increased media time by 5% in the past six years.
Harris also polled YouTube about advertising, posing the hypothetical question of what they would do should YouTube begin running pre-roll ads. In what is not a good sign for that ad model, nearly three-quarters of frequent YouTube users would cut down visits to the site. To be fair, YouTube hasn't introduced that type of ad model. Looks like a wise non-move.