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Digital Video Is Now More Popular Than Primetime TV Among Internet Viewers (Study)

People who watch professionally produced Internet video say they’re more likely to tune in to that type of content than any kind of TV programming — even surpassing primetime television for the first time.

That’s according to a study commissioned by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, the trade group that reps digital publishers and media companies. The survey was conducted by research firm GfK as an update to IAB’s annual original digital video study.

Original digital video overindexed at 140 (on a baseline of 100) among American adults who watch Internet video content at least monthly, when asked which kind of content they were “most likely” to watch — coming in ahead of primetime broadcast or cable at 135, according to the IAB’s 2016 Original Digital Video Study. Local and national TV news came in at 98, followed by live TV sports at 90 and daytime TV at 37. It’s worth noting that Internet video came out on top even though the IAB study excluded subscription-based video services like Netflix and Amazon that don’t carry advertising.

Of course, even if the latest BuzzFeed or YouTube viral video attracts more individual viewers than, say, the most recent HBO “Game of Thrones” episode, that doesn’t mean those views are in any way comparable in terms of dollar value.

Meanwhile, people still spend far more time watching traditional TV. In the fourth quarter of 2015, 95% of time spent viewing video was live or time-shifted TV, compared with 4% for Internet video watched on computers and 1% for video on smartphones, according to Nielsen. (And the IAB survey, to be clear, excluded consumers who do not watch Internet video at least monthly.)

But the research shows the audience for Internet video continues to swell. Overall, the number of Americans who watch professionally produced original digital video programming has grown to 63 million in the U.S. in 2016, up about 7% from 59 million a year ago (and a 40% increase from 45 million in 2013).

The study also revealed an increase in median household income among this audience, to $76,300, up 9% from a year ago. Median income among those who watch TV content online (such as on Hulu or ABC.com) was $76,900, whereas the figure for cord-cutters/cord-nevers was $59,600. In addition, the IAB research showed younger adults (18-34) are twice as likely as adults 35-plus to watch made-for-digital content.

The study defines “original digital video” as professionally produced video only for ad-supported online distribution and viewing (excluding TV programming distributed online). Examples include content from digital creators like PewDiePie, media companies like Conde Nast Entertainment and the Wall Street Journal, and online-video producers like Funny Or Die.

Not surprisingly, cord-cutters and cord-nevers — who don’t have cable or satellite TV — are more likely than pay-TV subscribers to stream video overall, per the IAB study. More than half of cord-cutters/nevers say original digital video was an important reason for not subscribing to pay TV.

Professionally produced digital video “not only attracts a valuable young demographic, but also appeals to the notoriously hard-to-reach audience of cord-cutters and cord-nevers,” said Anna Bager, IAB’s senior VP and G.M. of mobile and video. The group is releasing the study during the two-week Digital Content NewFronts, the series of presentations for ad and media execs in New York managed by the IAB.

In addition, the IAB study found that 38% of digital video viewers said they recall ads in original digital video, compared with 29% a year ago. Among cord-cutters/nevers aged 18-34 who watch online video, 48% said they’re likely to remember ads in Internet video compared with 27% a year ago.

The IAB’s 2016 Original Digital Video Study was fielded March 15–24, 2016, based on interviews with 852 adults (18 and older) who viewed online video at least once per month. The study also included a supplemental 150-person panel of original digital video viewers who are cord-cutters/cord-nevers.

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