While 25% of Internet users surveyed expressed interest in watching downloaded TV shows and movies on their PCs, 38% of those surveyed prefered to watch that downloaded material on a TV screen. For 18- to 34-year-olds, there is even more preference for TV-set viewing: 68% would watch downloads on their TV while only 45% would watch on their PCs.
TV as hardware
“In this PC and iPod generation, consumers still want to watch TV shows and movies on a TV, whether the programs are broadcast or downloaded,” said Stewart Wolpin, senior consulting analyst for Points North Group. “And that’s the one piece of hardware where Web-based video is not yet available.”
While Sony and Microsoft have developed “media-center” PCs designed to manage digital content in the home, the technology falls well short of seamless integration of platforms. Analysts have speculated that in the not-so-distant future Apple will unveil a product that facilitates the transfer of digital content between PCs, TVs and portable devices. But at the moment no hardware is currently available that easily and wirelessly connects the PC and the TV, although anyone with a digital video recorder can load a TV show on to that device’s hard drive.
If you want to watch Web-only content, like videos, it’s still pretty inconvenient to view it on your TV screen, unless you are one of the few who have hardwired your computer to your TV. Video files also can be burned onto a DVD then transferred via “sneakernet,” hacker slang for physically carrying a removable media (like a DVD) from one computer to another.
But even if you were to go to the trouble, the picture quality of downloaded material is not great; the quality is analogous to VHS rather than DVD. A discerning videophile might not enjoy this level of resolution on a big screen.
“Getting Web-based content to the TV should be the industry’s primary goal and will unlock by far the biggest revenue opportunities,” Mr. Wolpin said.
In the past few months there has been a proliferation of deals to make TV programming available for download through the Internet. Apple’s iTunes offers, among other things, replays of current ABC hits “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost” for $1.99 each. Google also has a video-download service that sells everything from rebroadcasts of NBA games to episodes of classic series such as the “Brady Bunch.”
The success of TV series on DVD has opened the network’s eyes to the possibilities of extracting post-broadcast revenue from original content. Networks are starting to realize that they may be able to make money out of old programming gathering dust in their vaults. The pay-per-download business model could generate revenue with little further cost to the network.
Downloaded content could also become an effective platform for advertisers. An earlier study by the same research firm showed that by greater than a 3-1 margin, consumers would prefer free on-demand TV programs with commercials (62% of those surveyed) rather than pay $1.99 per download (17%). Twenty-one percent of the survey’s respondents were undecided.
“In time, consumers will see a mix of free, ad-supported, pay-on-demand and subscription options,” said Craig Leddy, a Points North Group analyst.