August 28, 2007
Survey Says Downloading Video an Unsatisfactory Experience

Sure it's cool, but will the general population do it? That's the question that a recent survey asked about consumption of online video. And this particular study found that a wide variety of those who said they had downloaded online video didn't really plan to do it again in the future.

According to the Parks Associates study, only one out of every five Americans who have downloaded video plan to do it again, according to their sample. Their analysis points to the fact that there are a lot of technological barriers in place that impede viewers from getting an enjoyable experience from online video. The lag in download time, lower-quality video, smaller screen sizes for those who don't have the technology to easily transport the video to their television sets, selection of what's commercially available, and a variety of other issues are among the problems people have with online video.

There are a variety of issues to keep in mind. Internet connection is a major one. I don't have details on Parks Associates' study, but one would think that a study of places in which higher-speed Internet connectivity is less prevalent probably makes those who have tried downloading video particularly frustrated.

In Laurie Petersen's MediaPost story about these issues, she quotes Parks as pointing out that the Internet will continue to be the home of "niche markets." This echoes sentiments Bruce Leichtman expressed in an interview here on the C3 blog, in which he said, "That's not to disparage online video, but I think you have to compare what people are doing with their television sets to what they are doing with online video. It's an evolving market, but let's just keep it in perspective."

Online video is the hot thing to talk about these days, for sure, but I think understanding what the market is, who is using online video, who isn't using online video, who has used and was dissatisfied with online video, and what reasons people might have for using online video are all quite important. Time-shifting is an important reason to use online video in cases of cross-platform distribution, for instance, but it doesn't mean people are going to suddenly want to switch to using online video vis-a-vis a DVR.

There is a major difference, of course, between cross-platform distribution and original video content online. But it is clear in both cases that online video remains a niche market or a secondary market for mainstream media properties. These numbers will grow over time. Media companies will regret not maintaining a strong presence in online video now. On the other hand, companies also do themselves no favors by overhyping where online video is today.

One important thing to keep in mind: this survey was about downloading video, not about streaming video. Downloading video is often particularly for long-form content, not for YouTube videos or short online episodes. It points the way to the fact that people were dissatisfied with the lag time to download movies or whole television shows, for instance, and that those consumers may not have been satisfied with the experience of watching a long video online. It would be interesting to have seen more information on the nature of the online video those four-out-of-five not particularly satisfied with the experience had been downloading.