More People Watching TV Online Than Ever


Broadcast and cable television has long been a staple in many households, but according to Adobe’s Benchmark Report, that is changing. There has been a recent shift away from broadcast and cable television toward Internet television, the digital distribution of television content via the Internet. Though viewers aren’t fully cutting the cable cord just yet, the dramatic increase in online viewing is eluding to the inevitable fact that, someday (maybe sooner than later), cable TV viewership will be the minority or even non-existent.

Adobe’s researchers tracked 165 online video views and 1.53 billion logins over the course of one year and found that total TV viewing over the Internet grew 388 percent in mid-2014 over the previous year. Moreover, the number of unique viewers more than doubled, growing 146 percent since last year.

According to analyst Tamara Gaffney, three factors have driven the growth in online viewing: 1.) More apps and sites for watching, 2.) More content to watch on those apps and sites and 3.) The World Cup.  Sports are somewhat the “pioneer” of online viewing content and almost a gateway to other online content. In the case of the World Cup, the Internet was the only place to watch the games that were not aired on television. People came for the World Cup but stayed for everything else.

In 2014, for the first time ever, viewers now watch more movies online than sports. An average of 4.5 movies per month per person are streamed, versus only 2 just a year ago, an increase of 125%. Episodic television viewing has also seen an increase since last year by 81%.

The increase in online TV, however, doesn’t mean people are turning away from the television itself. 10 percent of online viewing is happening on game consoles, Apple TV and Roku devices, which viewers use to pipe TV from the Internet on their big screen. In addition, one in four televisions sold is now a smart TV, meaning it has Internet capabilities and online viewing options built in. Though streaming devices are increasing in popularity, 51 percent of all online TV viewing happens on an iOS app, according to Adobe’s figures. This means the viewing is happing on mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets, rather than the television. Apps such as Amazon Prime, Netflix, Hulu, HBO GO and major network apps make it easier to watch what you want, when you want and how you want, and viewers are embracing that freedom.

With this shift in viewers’ habits, advertisers and content marketers need to make the shift as well if they want to continue to reach their consumers. According to the Benchmark Report, alongside the increase of online video viewing, online video advertisement viewing has also increased. Viewers watched an estimated 2.08 ads per video in Q2 2014; up 25.8% year-over-year. In Q2 2014, the ratio of ad starts per video was 66% higher in sports content versus non-sports content. This poses an opportunity for advertisers and content publishers to develop strategies around ad placement that will hopefully improve the way ad engagement is measured for online TV viewing.

Further reading: