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TV Websites Gain Popularity, but Viewers Still Prefer Their TV Sets

Despite the growing popularity of viewing television content online, most adults (94%) who subscribe to cable or satellite television services prefer to watch television on traditional TV sets, according to new research conducted by The Nielsen Company for the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM).

One-third of the adult broadband users (35%) surveyed for the Nielsen-CTAM study said they had watched at least one television program originally shown on TV via the Internet. Of those who sought out video content online, 87% watched television programs directly from a TV network Web site. Further, 82% of those who watched video content online reported that they went online to find a specific television program that they had missed when it first aired on TV. This indicates the critical importance of strong marketing for the initial TV showing and the success that major networks are having by taking popular programs to the online platform.

Online television viewers are not only catching up on their favorite shows, nearly 40% report using the Internet to get the scoop on actors and upcoming episodes.


Which TV related activities have you done online?

Read background info about a show’s cast member 39%
Viewed a show’s previews 38%
Read background info about the show or the show’s characters 37%
Viewed a behind-the-scenes video clip 27%
Read or viewed a show’s cast member interview 26%
Viewed a show’s bloopers 22%
Viewed a show’s deleted scenes 20%

Source: “CTAM Tracking The Evolving Use of Television and Its Content: Wave 4 Trend Results and Analysis” Study (2008)

Asked to choose among seventeen online content categories, online television viewers said they prefer to watch shorter video clips when they go online. Specifically, movie trailers (53%), user generated videos (45%), music videos and general news segments (37%), comedy programs (31%), and sports clips (31%) were respondents’ top choices.

“Tracking how consumer behavior is changing as a result of new television viewing platforms is critical to our business,” said Char Beales, President and CEO of CTAM. “As preferences are made clear through research, cable companies and content providers evolve the product mix to best suit viewers’ needs and desires.”

“With so many viewing options now available via digital technology, it’s more important than ever to understand how people are consuming media,” said Susan Whiting, Executive Vice President, The Nielsen Company. “This analysis shows a continuing strong appetite for watching television the traditional way even as viewers begin to extend their viewing to the personal computer.”

In general, the study found that people are spending more time online each week than they were two years ago. More than half of the respondents (51%) reported being online for at least three hours a week last year. In 2005, just 41% of those surveyed said they spent three or more hours online per week.

Nielsen and CTAM’s analysis also found growth among services associated with traditional television set viewing. For example, respondents’ knowledge and usage of video On Demand services increased substantially between 2005 and 2007. Free On Demand programs and movies also experienced a significant jump in usage from 49% in 2005 to 71% in 2007, and paid On Demand usage increased from 46% to 55%.

Other key findings from the report include:

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  • HDTV subscribers are exceptionally loyal: Of those respondents who own HDTV sets, two-fifths (41%) subscribe to a high-definition programming service. These subscribers report making it a point to watch high-definition programs “every time” (20%) or “most of the time” (45%) they watch television.
  • Digital cable and HDTV are poised for further growth: Interest in digital cable and HDTV sets is strong among respondents currently without these services or devices. Those interested in digital cable jumped from 9% to 20% and from 18% to 28% for high definition TV sets from 2005 to 2007.
  • Viewers are accessing TV content via new media platforms: Small, but significant, percentages of respondents reported watching television via desktop computers (14%), laptops (9%), video-enabled mobile phones (6%), or other portable video players (5%).
  • Portable video platforms are slowly gaining popularity: While a large percent (82%) of adults in this study own a mobile phone, only 7% subscribe to a video downloading service. Of those respondents who own a video iPod, 35% have never watched a video on it, 16% watch videos two or three times a month, 14% watch videos once a week, and 9% watch videos daily via iPod.

About the Study
CTAM and Nielsen Entertainment Television partnered in conducting this study, “CTAM Tracking The Evolving Use of Television and its Content: Wave 4 Trend Results and Analysis,” which provides a comprehensive look at how emerging technologies are changing the way Americans access television content. This study was conducted as part of CTAM’s industry trends tracking market research program, in collaboration with Nielsen Entertainment Television. Data was collected via a nationwide telephone survey of 1,200 adults and 300 teens who subscribe to standard cable, digital cable or satellite television services; broadcast TV-only households were not included in the study. The full report is available for purchase on the CTAM Web site.

About CTAM
CTAM, the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing, is dedicated to helping the cable business grow. As a non-profit professional association, CTAM provides marketing education and networking opportunities to more than 5,500 members, through conferences, consumer research, publications,, a network of regional chapters, and the CTAM Executive Management Program at the Harvard Business School. CTAM also facilitates unified, national cooperative marketing efforts on behalf of its corporate members, such as the Cable Mover Hotline (SM), Business Services Initiative, and On Demand Consortium. Consumers can learn about cable’s advanced services and see offers from their local providers at the CTAM-supported

About The Nielsen Company
The Nielsen Company is a global information and media company with leading market positions in television and strategic custom research (Nielsen Entertainment Television), marketing information (ACNielsen), media information (Nielsen Media Research), online intelligence (NetRatings and BuzzMetrics), mobile measurement (Nielsen Mobile), trade shows and business publications (Billboard, The Hollywood Reporter, Adweek). The privately held company is active in more than 100 countries, with headquarters in Haarlem, the Netherlands, and New York, USA. For more information, please visit,

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