TV fans choose mouse over remote

24 Sep 2007

Audiences are increasingly choosing to watch television online: to the tune of €260m in revenue from this medium by 2011 according to predictions made by UK digital analysts Screen Digest.

Although music downloads currently dominate digital content distribution and will most likely continue to do so, Screen Digest say that consumers are starting to seek out their favourite soaps, dramas and television programmes online making this a lucrative market for broadcasters.

It seems as though US television networks are looking to heat up this trend as Fox announced Friday that it would be providing free downloads, through the US iTunes Store, of the season premieres of seven of its popular shows including Prison Break, Bones and American Dad (pictured) in order to hook their viewers online.

This promotion follows NBC’s decision last week to launch NBC Direct, a portal where the network plans to offer free downloads but only within a week of its original air data after which the customer must pay to unlock it for further use.

This flurry of activity by major networks to get their television shows on the net comes in the increasing threat of domination by established, popular services like YouTube as well as newcomers like Joost.

Arash Amel, a senior analyst at Screen Digest says: “Broadcasters and pay-TV operators will come under increasing pressure from many major ‘virtual networks’, such as YouTube and Joost, who will be competing for viewers’ time and attention.

“This will be exacerbated by hardware manufacturers, such as Apple, Microsoft and Sony, who will be far more adept at selling TV shows because of their existing device relationships with the consumer.”

Amel outlined the need for television networks and broadcasters to build a strong online strategy: either providing shows through their own portal like NBC or working with established distributors as Fox is doing with iTunes.

Although the market for television and music is growing rapidly online, movie downloads are failing to take off. One of the reasons thought is to be because movie fans are reluctant to watch films on their PC instead of the larger, high quality medium of HD television sets or home entertainment centres.

By Marie Boran