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TV viewing moves online: more consumers watch TV online; Hulu gains in popularity


Nearly one out of four U.S. households watches TV online

NEW YORK - Nearly one out of four U.S. households watches TV online, up from 20 percent last year, reports The Conference Board and TNS. And is fast becoming the hot site - just behind - for watching TV programs. In fact, the number of households visiting has increased almost fourfold in the last year.

The Consumer Internet Barometer, a quarterly report produced by The Conference Board, the global business membership and research association, and TNS, a global market insight and information group, surveys 10,000 households across the country and tracks who’s doing what on the Internet.

Nearly 80 percent of consumers log on daily for entertainment. In fact, entertainment is cited as one of the most important Internet activities, behind only personal communication and work-related activities.

The End of ‘Appointment TV’?
Consumers are moving away from “appointment” TV, preferring to watch programs whenever they choose. Being able to view favorite shows at any time, along with personal convenience, are the two major reasons cited by more than half of consumers for turning to online TV. Consumers also cite portability as another benefit.
“Online viewing allows users to watch TV on their own schedule, catch up on missed content and focus on their favorite programs,” says Lynn Franco, Director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. “As result, about 20 percent of consumers say their traditional TV viewing has declined.”

News shows are the most popular online programs - watched by about 43 percent of online TV viewers. About 35 percent enjoy sitcoms, comedies and dramas, while 19 percent of online TV viewers indulge in reality shows and 18 percent follow sports. Other forms of online content include previews, user-generated content, additional content from favorite shows, soap operas and advertisements.

Hulu.Com Users Nearly Quadruple
Two-thirds of all online TV viewers access their favorite programs through streaming video, while 41 percent utilize free download. Nine out of ten online viewers enjoy online TV from their own home. One out of ten logs on at the office.

More than two-thirds of online TV viewers access television content through the official TV channel’s homepage. still retains second place, accessed by 42 percent of online TV viewers. There has been a great explosion in the popularity of, a website that features streaming video from many major television networks. Usage has grown from 8 percent of households in 2008 to 32 percent today.

“The rise of Hulu is not just a coincidence,” says Bernard Brenner, Senior Vice President, Innovation & Product Development at TNS. “Hulu and other online TV viewing options have created a user experience equivalent to how people self categorize content - sorting by brand, genre and popularity. This user experience, along with a deep library of branded content, has created a service that continues to resonate with users.”

About This Survey
The Consumer Internet Barometer is based on a quarterly survey of 10,000 households. A unique sample is surveyed each quarter. Return rates average 70 percent, which ensures highly representative data. Data is weighted as well to reflect the latest U.S. household demographic information. The latest survey was conducted during the third quarter of 2009. For more information, please email or


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