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YouTube is Proven to Reduce TV Viewership

Some believe that broadband video isn't a threat to traditional broadcast TV's mass-market appeal, because of the preexisting consumer preference for professionally produced programs. However, perhaps the real threat is still a reduction in mind-share.

Few vehicles are as effective at reaching large segments of the population as television, a fact that has established it as the favored medium for advertisers in many product categories. For as long as that has been the case, however, TV networks and ad agencies have been fearful of emerging competitors and technologies that threaten their route into consumer's minds.

From the remote control to the Digital Video Recorder (DVR), there have long been predictions that live TV, linear programming, and its embedded advertisements were going to be adversely affected by a consumer's ability to bypass commercials. More recently, a different kind of threat has emerged from YouTube, the Internet's response to one-stop digital video viewing.

Recent research by Harris Interactive suggests that this fear may indeed be warranted. Over four in 10 (42 percent) online U.S. adults say they have watched a video at YouTube, and 14 percent say they visit the site frequently. The implication: it's activity instead of watching TV.

Almost one in three (32 percent) of these frequent YouTube users confirmed that they are watching less TV as a result of the time they spend there. However, YouTube has its own set of challenges as it tries to monetize the viewer traffic it has already amassed.

If YouTube is considering airing ads before its videos, they may be advised to halt that thinking; 73 percent of frequent YouTube users say they would visit the site less if it started including short video ads before every clip.

The implication: the traditional invasive advertising model may become the most effective 21 Century 'consumer repellent' known to man.

These are just some of the results of a recent Harris Poll of 2,309 U.S. adults (ages 18 and older), of whom 363 are frequent YouTube viewers, conducted online by Harris Interactive between December 12 and 18, 2006.

Of all frequent YouTube users, two-thirds (66 percent) claim they are sacrificing other activities when on YouTube. Although their visits to the site are most likely to have been at the expense of visiting other websites (36 percent), time spent watching TV is next most likely to have taken a hit (32 percent).

YouTube also cuts into email and other online social networking (20 percent), work/homework (19 percent), playing video games (15 percent), watching a DVD (12 percent) and even spending time with friends and family in person (12 percent).

Further compounding the problem for advertiser-supported TV, YouTube usage is greatest among the group already hardest to reach through television advertising: young males. Over three-quarters (76 percent) of 18 to 24 year old males say they have watched a video at YouTube, and 41 percent visit YouTube frequently.

"We know from some of our other data on teens that YouTube is just as popular with them as it is with young adults," says Aongus Burke, Senior Research Manager of Harris Interactive's Media and Entertainment Practice.

"It has really emerged as a major force in, and problem for, the traditional entertainment industry. Not only is YouTube using a lot of their own content to steal the eyeballs they want the most, the site has provided a launching pad to wholly new forms of user-generated video entertainment that are gaining popularity quickly."

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