A report issued today by TDG analyst Michael Greeson, and based on research from GigaOM Pro, says that online video viewing audience is still dominated by the wealthy, teenagers, and those who are prone to be early adopters. Somebody wake me when the findings turn surprising. (If you subscribe to gigaOM, you can view the full briefing here.)
2,000 viewers were surveyed, and the study aimed to determine what kind of people watch online video and how they view it. And while things are trending toward wider and wider demographics, online video's core audience remains young people between the ages of 18 and 32—a full third of the online video audience fits into this group. The next age group, 33-44-year-olds, make up 30 percent of the audience. And the median age for online video viewers is 41.
You know, the more I look at those numbers, the more I see the headlines on stories like this as misleading. Young people make up the largest chunk of viewers, at one-third… or 33%. Then the next age group is 30%. That's not a huge difference. 3%, actually (just in case math isn't your strong suit). So while all the articles I read about this report his morning had headlines mentioning "youth" or "young people" or "teenagers" being the main audience for video, that's kind of misleading. And yes, I used a similar title in an effort to be ironical. It would be much more interesting to see the change in these numbers from the previous year, but I don't think this survey was conducted last year.
Online video viewers are also early adopters, which means they all went out and bought iPads this weekend. I'm kidding, though I'm sure many of them did. Specifically, though, the research indicates the online viewing audience is more prone to owning HD televisions, DVR technology, or Blu-ray players. They're even more likely to have a home network of computers.
Pardon me again for a moment if I pause to point out that HD televisions, DVR's, and Blu-ray players are hardly cutting edge gadgets anymore. In point of fact, they are all several years old. My parents have those things, and they're definitely not early adopters of anything, and they even have iPhones. It's possible there are other gadgets the research showed online viewers as owning—something that would more easily demonstrate their early-adoption credentials. But it's also possible that they were reaching a bit for a conclusion. Who am I to say?
And yes… there are still millions who don't own a Blu-ray player or a DVR. But there are also millions who don't own a car. That doesn't mean people who own a horseless carriage are early adopters. Early adopters, by definition, buy into things before those things get popular and mainstream. And HD TVs are definitely popular and mainstream.
Online video viewers might also tend to be rich… with 14% making $100,000. Wow. Now we know why they can afford those HD TVs and DVRs and horseless carriages.
But seriously… I imagine there are a lot of ways to interpret a number like that. Do the rich have more time on their hands to waste on watching Internet videos? Or does their money help make them early adopters in general since they can afford most new gadgets… and therefore they become, over time, the kind of people to jump in with both feet when a new trend appears? Does the salary level indicate that they are the bosses and not the employees, and therefore they can watch as much online video throughout the day as they like?
There are many more good nuggets in the findings. For example, there are lots of intriguing numbers about what people are watching. Did you know 32% of the online video audience watches traditional television episodes online? 22% watch weather videos—really? And only 8.2% go online for movies—like Netflix rentals or iTunes purchases.
It's very curious to me that there is such a gap between TV shows and movies online. While I'm sure that the "big screen" experience one can still get at a movie theater (3D, surround sound, stadium seating, etc.) is part of the sluggishness in viewers moving online for that content… it doesn't seem to account for the entire gap. What makes TV so much more agreeable to the viewer in an online setting than a movie? Could it be the run-time? Could it be that we're trained to see movies as something we want to own, but that television episodes are something we merely "rent" or watch without owning? Very curious.
The young people are also more well-rounded in their online video viewing habits—watching bits and pieces of all kinds of content, from movies to user-generated videos to television shows. Older viewers are more likely to have just one type of content they go online for (probably those weather videos mentioned above).
So… while there's nothing terribly Earth-shattering in this study, there is some really interesting information for those of us in the online video space to digest. I'm looking forward to future versions of this study, where we might learn even more by watching the changes and trends in the demographics and viewing habits. For now, just know that the online audience is wide and varied… and probably changing by the day.