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NPD: Free Streaming on Par With SVOD

4 Feb, 2013 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Hulu the top free VOD website in 2012

While traditional pay-TV operators and broadcast networks dominate the consumer television landscape, 12% of TV viewers streamed TV shows for free from the Internet during the past 90 days compared with 14% who watched a TV show via subscription video-on-demand service, according to new data from The NPD Group.

Nearly all broadcast and cable TV networks offer free streaming of their programming on the Web, but Hulu.com dominated free streaming TV, representing 43% of total streams in 2012. The five broadcast network sites (CBS.com, ABC.com, Fox.com, NBC.com and CWTV.com) accounted for another 30% of total streams. Four cable TV sites (abcfamily.com, comedycentral.com, MTV.com and A&ETV.com) complete the top-10 free streaming TV sites, according to NPD.

“Over half of the viewers for streaming TV are between the ages of 18 and 34, so the YouTube generation is evolving from short-form and user-generated content to TV shows and, like YouTube, they can watch where and when they want,” said Russ Crupnick, SVP of industry analysis at NPD. “Despite the attention lavished on tablets and phones, an astonishing 83% of free TV streaming programs are viewed on a computer.”

Among the top-10 free streaming sites, 75% of users said they would use the site in the future. Indeed, two-thirds of users said they would “definitely” use Hulu again. These free sites generally perform well on convenience and site organization. Most of them also perform well on current release availability; however, Fox.com streamers rate the site much lower on this measure, due to the fact that Fox delays access to new episodic programming eight days from initial broadcast.

“The consumer response to program availability on Fox speaks to the often controversial question of whether the audience detects shows that are windowed,” Crupnick said.

Based on NPD’s findings, the shift toward Internet video distribution underscores burgeoning content, purchase and rental options to consumers. With it comes a more diverse set of direct and indirect competitors among movie studios and TV networks, as well as their TV and digital distribution partners.

“From the consumer perspective, it is important to monitor the habits and perceptions of the audience as all of these distribution models evolve, which will help align programming to the target audience and inform whether consumers are responding positively to the experience these options provide,” Crupnick said.

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