By Matthew Meschery
The following is an excerpt from the executive summary of the 2011 ITVS Digital Survey. The findings, which are available for download below, offer new trends on the digital media environment with a particular focus on independent producers.
Who put the audience in charge? Technology, demographic shifts, and a globalized economy have all shaped a 21st century media ecosystem where power has shifted away from traditional broadcasters and gatekeepers. It’s a shift that’s revolutionized where, how, and why people use media. And content makers and distributors are playing catch-up, trying to figure out ways to reach viewers, make money, and break through the deafening noise of the marketplace.
In three of the past four years, ITVS surveyed independent producers — who so often bridge the public interest, artistic, and commercial worlds — to share their opinions, knowledge, and yes, anxiety about these changes. With this most recent survey, we took the opportunity to combine their responses with other ITVS research and observations on the landscape and its impact on producers, all as part of the mission of ITVS IndiesLab, our joint initiative with PBS to test and model independent filmmaker strategies for online distribution platforms.
VIEWERS: WHERE THEY ARE, WHERE THEY ARE GOING?
Every day, the average American watches four to five hours of television, uses the Internet for almost an hour, and views nine minutes of online video. While television consumption continues to rise and still dwarfs all other media, Internet and mobile viewing are growing fast — over 10 times TV’s growth rate — and faster yet among the younger demographic. A recent report from Retrevo found that 29 percent of Americans under age 25 get all or most of their TV online, compared with only eight percent of the entire video watching population.
What they’re watching online, however, looks increasingly like television. In the first half of 2011, one-third of Internet users watched full-length films and TV programs online, and full-length content now makes up 18 percent of online viewing, compared to 11 percent in 2009. Eight percent of online viewing is now spent on full-length movies, up from five percent two years ago, and the audience for premium online video content is expected to expand to three-quarters of Internet users in the next two years. New research also shows viewers are spending less time watching online video during the day, with online viewership now peaking around 9PM — the same time broadcasters air their most valuable TV properties.
The result: The number of Netflix Streaming subscribers nearly doubled in 2010, and cable is losing subscribers, with heavy Netflix users cutting the cable cord. For the first time it appears clear that these services are cannibalizing the TV market. And the evidence suggests more viewers are building the habit of watching their favorite films and television programs online — a trend likely to be driven faster and further with the rise of iPads, Apple TV, Roku, Boxee, Google TV, game consoles, and other devices that offer content beyond the web browser with a more seamless, “lean-back” experience.
Check out the video below as Matthew Meschery discusses the digital survey and how Public Media is uniquely positioned to respond to some of its findings. Big thanks to the 1,000+ independent filmmakers who participated in ITVS’s 2011 Digital Survey.