Glued to the Small Screen

Apparently, more and more of us are watching video in the palm of our hands: according to a new report from international research firm IDG Global Solutions, 75% of online viewers surveyed reported using a smartphone to watch online videos. That’s a 22% increase from the 61% who indicated they did so in the 2012 survey.

According to IDG’s 2014 Global Mobile Survey report, mobile is also displacing more traditional media: 50% of survey respondents use a tablet to read newspapers and 40% have replaced either their laptop or desktop with a tablet device.

New technology has allowed more people to bring their work home with them: 80% of survey respondents said that they use their tablets after hours to research business products or services.

And while mobile devices continue to generate e-commerce revenues, many consumers balk at the idea of making purchases via their smartphone. The top barriers cited by survey respondents were the lack of mobile enabled websites and security concerns.

“Mobile is disruptive–affecting how we live, shop, do business and consume media,” IDG notes. “Every minute of the day we are constantly interacting with brands at a conscious and unconscious level, and this is having a profound impact on the way that businesses are now communicating with their audience.”

Talking ‘Bout My Generation

The way an individual views his or her home network usage changes with age, a new report from The Diffusion Group (TDG) finds.

According to the report,”The In-Home Video and PC Ecosystem,” three-quarters of all millennials who use a home network describe their use as either equally or primarily media-related. By contrast, two-thirds of those home network users over the age of 65 describe their network use as data-centric.

While the percentage of media-centric users is approximately the same in the 18-24 and 25-34 age groups (74% and 73%, respectively), that percentage falls dramatically throughout each of the successive age demographics. Similarly, the percentage of self-described data-centric users begins at 21% for those between 18-24, then rises steadily, reaching 65% for those 65 and older.

“Most interesting is how rapidly this media orientation drops off as the age of the home network user increases,” said TDG president Michael Greeson. “Beyond Millenials, this emphasis shifts incrementally toward a more data-driven behavior characterized by the use of net-connected, networked PCs for ‘productivity’ or non-media needs.”

The TDG report also examines the type of televisions used in the broadband home, and their placement; the type of IP-enabled video platforms (such as Blu-ray players, DVRs, game consoles and Internet set-top boxes) used; and the specifics of home networks, including in-home router placement.

Channel Surfing with the Boss

In 1992, Bruce Springsteen bemoaned the fact that despite having a (for the time) state-of-the-art video setup, he was unable to impress a lady friend because there were “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On.)”

While today’s aging boomers may have considerably more choices, they still aren’t finding much that holds their interest. According to a forthcoming report from media research firm Nielsen, the average American television viewer has 189 television channels to choose from. Despite that embarrassment of riches, however, consumers tune in to, on average, only 17.

“This data is significant in that it substantiates the notion that more content does not necessarily equate to more channel consumption,” writes Nielsen in a release promoting its Advertising and Audiences Report. “And that means quality is imperative—for both content creators and advertisers. So the best way to reach consumers in a world with myriad options is to be the best option.”

In his song, Springsteen eventually solved his dilemma Elvis-style: he put a bullet into his set, and was promptly arrested for “disturbin’ the almighty peace.” Given the price of today’s jumbo-sized flat screens—and the availability of other at-home entertainment options—it seems unlikely that the average 21st century consumer would follow suit.

Musings of a Visit to the Google Fiber-Zone in Kansas City

The following is a guest post from Kurt J. Gruendling, vice president of marketing and business development at Waitsfield and Champlain Valley Telecom, in Waitsfield, Vermont.

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Google Fiber installation vans are lined up in Kansas City.

The 2014 IP Possibilities Conference & Expo recently brought me to Kansas City, Missouri, home of the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals, and also known for its jazz, blues and barbecue. Kansas City has a population of approximately 464,000 people and the town is currently served by AT&T (the ILEC) and Time Warner Cable (the MSO), and just happens to be one of the cities that Google has selected for a complete fiber overbuild.

To some, a visit to the National World War I Museum, Kauffman Center for Performing Arts, or KC Fountains might be on the agenda. To me, a visit to the Google Fiber Zone Store was number one on my list. Along with Eric Kuhn from Sandhill Telephone Cooperative, we decided to visit the store on West Port Road. Read more

Hulu Trying to Keep Up With Netflix?

Hulu’s CEO announced this week that the company is in discussions with pay TV providers to add Hulu Plus to their set-top boxes. This announcement came about a week after Netflix announced that it will be available as a channel on three small cable providers’ Ti-Vo set-top boxes.

In fact, this was not the only announcement Hulu made this week. For one, Hulu Plus just passed 6 million subscribers. Not a lot compared to the 35.7 million that subscribe to Netflix, but still not bad.

Hulu also announced that starting this summer, mobile device users will be able to watch select Hulu programming for free from their devices without a Hulu Plus subscription. A next generation version of Hulu Plus for the iPhone is also reportedly on tap for late summer.

And, finally, Hulu is working on a new feature that allows users to purchase things they see in ads without leaving Hulu. Pizza Hut is reportedly going to be the launch partner; Hulu is tying right into Pizza Hut’s online ordering system.

So, while Netflix (with the interconnection deals with Comcast and Verizon) has been getting all the attention lately, Hulu is quietly improving its features. It will be interesting to see what Amazon Prime comes up with next in the head-to-head battle for streaming TV.

Three Companies are First U.S. Video Providers to Offer Netflix on Their STBs

Three U.S. video service providers—Atlantic Broadband, Grande Communications and RCN—have announced plans to incorporate Netflix into their set-top boxes (STBs.) The U.S. providers follow European providers, Com Hem and Virgin Media, who already do so.

This action will allow the providers’ customers to access Netflix without the need for a separate STB, input ports, remote controls or other hardware. In the words of Atlantic Broadband chief marketing and strategy officer David Isenberg, “Now, watching Netflix is as easy as changing the channel.”

Customers will still need to purchase a Netflix subscription to make use of the service. They also will need to subscribe to Atlantic Broadband, Grande Communications or RCN’s TiVo DVR service. Customers will be able to use their TiVo DVR to search and view Netflix content.

“These three cable companies are leading innovators, offering more choices and a great experience to their customers,” said Netflix head of business development Bill Holmes. “Not only are they the first U.S. cable providers to offer Netflix on their set-top boxes, they also have directly connected their networks to Netflix, enabling a better viewing experience with faster startup times and superior image quality.”

The Netflix service is available to the customers of the three companies beginning April 28.

Twitch Takes the Lead In Live Streaming Video Bandwidth Usage

People can debate whether baseball is still the great American pastime. And whatever one’s feelings on professional wrestling may be, few would dispute that it’s a cultural phenomenon all its own. And for video coverage of sports in general, ESPN has long been the go-to brand that sets the standard. But when it comes to live online streaming, Major League Baseball (MLB), World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) and ESPN are all taking a backseat to video gaming site Twitch.

Providing what is perhaps the final proof of the ascendance of couch potatoes, Qwilt, a video caching and bandwidth management firm, reports that Twitch dominates live online streaming, accounting for 43.6% of live over the top (OTT) video traffic. WWE is in second place, generating 17.7% of live streaming video, followed by the business video service Ustream at 10.9%. Surprisingly, MLB, which was recently credited with driving live streaming video by Forbes magazine, came in fourth at 7.2%. And despite its well-known brand, ESPN clocked in at number five, generating only 6.3% of live streaming traffic, according to Qwilt. In other words, Twitch streams more live video than WWE, MLB and ESPN put together.

Clearly, gamers are a committed bunch. Qwilt notes that more than 45 million viewers visit Twitch every month, watching an average of 106 minutes worth of videos per day. Some Twitch users even generate revenue on Twitch private channels, demonstrating a viable market. However, a key component of Twitch is that it involves more than just passive viewing. It is also home to a lively online community where gamers connect with each other, trade tips, talk trash and otherwise interact. With perhaps more than a hint of irony, it serves as a social gathering place for those who many see as antisocial. In so doing, Twitch is carving out a unique online space for itself and generating new bandwidth demands in the process. While live streaming does not yet compare to the traffic generated by video on demand sites like Netflix and YouTube, the dynamic needs of live video, and its impressive growth, constitute additional evidence that consumer demands for higher speeds and more reliable service are not slowing down.

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