Online Video is Rapidly Growing, but it’s Not Taking Over Traditional TV Just Yet

Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the hype of digital streaming.

It’s fun for us to go on and on about how the future of television is now, and traditional broadcast and cable business models are standing on death’s door, and that soon enough we’ll all sit around streaming Game of Thrones and House of Cards and Teen Wolf all from one simplified streaming app.

But then reality kind of kicks in and makes us realize we’re probably not quite there, and it just might still be a ways off.

Today at the Converge conference,  Activate CEO Michael J. Wolf was speaking about the shift in viewership from the traditional television model to a more online-focused consumption.

In 2011, video was consumed online 7% of the time compared to traditional TV’s 93% of the time. Currently 23% of video consumption is digital, compared to 77% through television. Projected growth over the next three years starts getting interesting though as we’re supposed to be consuming digital video 41% of the time as compared to 59% through television by 2018.

This is quite a seemingly incredible transition, certainly, but if we left you with only the numbers, they would be rather misleading, as the actual total time spent consuming video is what is actually increasing. In other words, while sure, digital video consumption is slowly chewing bits off of normal television viewership, the fact is the pie is actually just getting a lot bigger.

See the below trend graph by Mr. Wolf (photo credit: Geoffrey Fowler)

watching video online stats

Instead of transitioning away from traditional TV and moving to digital, we’re actually just watching MORE video now, and digital happens to be the fastest growing segment of such consumption. A Nielsen report from 2014 found that Americans had increased their daily digital viewing from 12 minutes to over 27 minutes in just two years.

To top that off, this increase in digital video viewership is largely due to mobile content consumption increases. In that same Digiday article referenced above, they talk about Mary Meeker’s 2014 Internet Trends report which mentions a massive and growing segment of time spent browsing the web on mobile. Not news to anyone who rides a bus on a daily basis, but it’s pretty clear that our faces are now perpetually glued to our phones and tablets.

It’s easy to get caught up in the hype that digital streaming is seemingly overtaking all of our entertainment. But we’re certainly not in the middle of a television apocalypse quite yet. You don’t need to throw your 60″ plasma to the curb just this moment as we’re willing to bet there’s still plenty of life left in the traditional television business model.  Online video is still somewhat difficult to monetize compared to traditional television advertising, so it’s likely the big budget productions will continue to flow through the major networks at least in the short term. But it doesn’t take more than a glimpse at the list of streaming video originals to realize that digital media is still knocking at the door.