Stream Dreams

By Published on .

Broadband and rich media may force TV to take a backseat.

Sure, dot-com advertising is down, the number of newbies hitting the Internet has reached a plateau, and personal computer sales have fallen. But a new study tells marketers not to give up on the Internet just yet. Rather, keep your sights on the potential of streaming media, and hang on tight.

While Americans are spending less time on the Internet in general, they are spending more time listening to or viewing streaming media, according to “Internet VI: Streaming at a Crossroads,� the latest report from The Arbitron Company and Edison Media Research, based in New York City and Somerville, New Jersey, respectively. As of January 2001, America is home to 61.3 million “streamies� — Internet consumers who have streamed Internet audio or video. And while they compose just 27 percent of the U.S. population and 44 percent of all those online, it is a segment that has rocketed from nearly zero just three years ago. In fact, 13 percent of all Americans (more than 30 million) today use Internet audio or video every month, compared with 10 percent in January 2000.

The streamie population is likely to expand in the next year as the number of home broadband subscribers in the U.S. doubles from 13 percent of the online population today, to a projected 26 percent, according to the report. As evidence, 34 percent of today's broadband consumers listen to streaming audio online and 33 percent watch streaming video, compared with 29 percent and 19 percent, respectively, of those with dial-up access.

These streamies are an incredibly attractive target market: The average streamie is male (56 percent), between the ages of 25 and 44 (40 percent), has had at least “some� college education (32 percent), and carries a full-time or part-time job (67 percent). Forty-six percent have an annual income of $50,000 or more. These multimedia surfers spend 44 percent more time online per day than the total online population. They are more than twice as likely as the average Internet user to make online purchases (34 percent vs. 19 percent), and last year spent heftier sums to boot ($1,047 vs. $806). “Twenty percent of streamies keep their media players open and in full view on their monitors, making them compelling advertising targets,� says Bill Rose, Arbitron's vice president and general manager of Internet information services.

The study helps marketers pinpoint these cyber-surfers' whereabouts by separating them into two groups: “audio streamies� and “video streamies.� Movie trailers are the No. 1 destination for the visually fixated, attracting 51 percent of video streamies. This group also loves music videos (42 percent), weather forecasts (34 percent), and sports highlights (31 percent). To reach the audio junkies, go where the music is, as 44 percent of audio streamies drum a beat while online. Or check radio stations' online counterparts, where 25 percent of them hang out. Another 24 percent say they're busy with Napster music files, and an equal share tune in to news reports. Radio stations listen up: 39 percent of audio streamies who visit online radio programs say that since visiting the Web programs, they've been spending more time listening to the corresponding stations offline.

Streamies also have considerable interest in complementing gadgets. They have a greater propensity than the general online user to research MP3 players (58 percent) and devices that would upgrade their PDAs (41 percent), home stereos (41 percent), or car stereos (49 percent) for Internet audio. And 47 percent are interested in satellite-equipping their cars to accommodate the digital sound.

If forced to choose between television and the Internet, just one-third (33 percent) of Americans with home Internet access, whether it be dial-up or broadband, would say ta-ta to the tube, according to the report. But streamies are even more likely to sacrifice ER for their mouse (41 percent), and those who use the streaming technology at least once a week are even more smitten (47 percent). In fact, while 67 percent of adults aged 25 and older wouldn't dream of giving up their set-top boxes, a full 47 percent of 12- to 24-year-olds would do away with the medium in a heartbeat. “Streaming media is a great way for advertisers to target the younger 12- to 24-year-old market,� says Larry Rosin, president of Edison Media Research. “These consumers are more likely to be online using streaming media and have a higher tendency to interact with the advertising.�

So much for the TV Generation.

For more information, and to download a copy of the “Internet VI� executive summary, visit or

Speed Demons

Forty-six percent of broadband users expect to use the Internet more over the next 12 months.

Percent who say they expect to spend more time with…


TV 20% 17%
Radio 34% 36%
Internet 30% 46%
Newspaper 25% 26%
Source: The Arbitron Company/Edison Media Research
Most Popular