Episodes of 24 are viewable on MySpace a day after airing on broadcast TV. SlingBox jockeys use their laptops to watch what’s on at home, unbound by geography and often untethered by wires. MediaPCs and AppleTV throw hard drive content into the living room, in files and streams. Amazon Unbox, CinemaNow and Netflix Instant Viewing do the same thing for PCs, letting movie fans get their fix when they can’t get to a theater.

At least 14% of US adults watched online video once a week as of December 2006, according to Leichtman Research Group (LRG).

The buzz might make you think that online video viewing is coming at the expense of TV, but it isn’t happening yet.

Although total online video usage has increased in the past year, the percentage of adults watching online video remains relatively unchanged. A previous LRG survey conducted nine months earlier found that 4% of adults viewed online video at least daily and an additional 11% at least weekly.

eMarketer is optimistic about online video viewer growth, and estimates that 157 million people in the US will be watching online video at least once a month by 2010.

TV still dominates viewing habits: 93% of adults spend at least one hour a day, on average, watching it.

Much of the buzz about online video is driven by online video viewer demographics. Men ages 18-34 account for 41% of daily online video watchers, but make up only 14% of all online subscribers. This group also accounts for over two-thirds of adults who visit YouTube and view other user-generated content daily.

Just 8% of those who watch video online strongly agree that they now watch TV less often.

"As with most forms of media and entertainment, online video is following the traditional ‘heavy hand’ model of a minority of users driving the majority of the usage," said Bruce Leichtman of LRG. "Rather than replacing TV, in the near-term, emerging video services like online video are best viewed as opportunities to complement and augment traditional TV viewing options."

What if online video was easy to watch on TV?

While 68% of US online adults are interested in watching downloaded TV shows and movies on their televisions, only 45% say they would watch longer videos on their computer screens, according to Points North Group and Horowitz Associates.

The data, however, are specific to TV shows and movies, content which is produced and formatted to be viewed on TV in the first place.

Online video that is produced for the Web (or podcast video, for that matter) is made for a smaller screen, and is typically shorter in length than content that is made with TV viewing in mind. Blow up online video for TV viewing and it often looks grainy, or doesn’t fit the screen well. This is where the divide between online video and TV is likely to remain.

The perception is that online video is cannibalizing TV time, according to a Piper Jaffray survey. Some 42% of US adults believe they watch less TV now than they did two years ago. Those ages 18–24 and 55 and older were even more likely to think they watch less TV.

Although TV will still likely be the dominant media device for the next several years, TV programmers and ad buyers should be aware of the ramifications of online video multitasking. If the amount of switching and divided attention that currently exists on the computer platform extends to online video, consumers’ attention to online TV programs will be greatly reduced.

Via eMarketer