Online viewing not the future of TV just yet
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Online viewing not the future of TV just yet

If Apple is expecting its Macs, iPhones, iPads, etc., to be the future of TV viewing, Jobs & Company have their work cut for them. Despite the growing amount of video available online, less than 8% of U.S. broadband households are considering canceling their pay-TV services in favor of online video, according to Parks Associates (

A 2008 study reported 11% of U.S. broadband households were considering canceling pay-TV services, and in an earlier 2009 survey, the number was 10%. A new study found approximately 5.5 million homes would be open to canceling pay TV due in part to the availability of online video. At the same time, one-half of these households are also considering a switch to a new pay-TV provider, indicating the primary threats to companies such as Verizon, Comcast, DirecTV, and Cablevision are still their traditional competitors.

The households likely to switch or cancel their services watch a whopping 10 hours of online video each week, much higher than typical video consumers. They express strong interest in having online access to pay-TV channels (e.g., TV Everywhere), which highlights an opportunity for traditional pay-TV providers to solidify their base through the deployment of such features. Offline video consumption is also higher. Their median number of DVD rentals from the last six months is 18, compared to two rentals among other households.

"The threat of cannibalization is real but misunderstood,” says John Barrett, director, research, Parks Associates. “Nobody is going to rely on online video alone -- households likely to cancel their TV services are going to use a mixture of online video, free-to-air broadcasts, and DVDs, including rental services such as Netflix and redbox.”

Barrett also discounted the immediate threat of migration to online video. “Very few households have made the switch, a sign that the alternative is not yet compelling," he says. "Just 0.5% of broadband households (350,000 homes) had pay TV, cancelled it, and now watch five or more hours of online video per week. People who have made the switch to online video are few in number, and they don’t watch much TV anyway."

So if Apple want to make serious in-roads into getting a solid presence in the living room, it's going to have to rethink the Apple TV -- and move it out of the hobby category.

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