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At what point does TV become a subset of video watching?

When nearly half of all U.S. adults and 67 percent of young adults are viewing streaming or downloaded video each week — as reported in a new study from consumer researcher Experian Marketing Services — TV’s dominant role seems more slippery than ever.

Those two stats are each three percent higher than six months ago. Experian also found that approximately 7.6 million U.S. homes out of about 114 million are now cord-cutters for video programming, with high-speed Internet programming or DVDs substituting for cable or satellite services. That’s a 44 percent increase over four years ago.

Another researcher, Centris Marketing Science, has found a higher figure, with 16 percent of TV subscribers being cord-cutters as of late last year, including both former pay TV watchers and those who never had pay TV.

“The most surprising [finding] is that the smartphone is the most commonly used device for consumption of online video,” Experian Marketing Services senior analyst John Fetto told VentureBeat. He attributed this to the common habit of “snacking” on short clips.

Increasingly, Fetto said, “TV is being viewed as [just another] screen,” not necessarily as the programming source.

In other words, “Let’s watch TV” could mean watching the TV screen — or not. “A Millennial might say [that phrase] means watching The Daily Show on their smartphone,” he pointed out.

But the transition to a less-TV media landscape is hampered by the factor of money.

“Revenues for online video are just a drop in the bucket compared to TV advertising and pay-TV subscriber revenues,” Parks Associates’ director of research Brett Sappington told us.

Accessing the content

“Companies that rely on revenues from traditional TV are in a difficult position,” he added. “While consumer eyes are making the leap to online video, the wallets are not yet making that same leap.”

Those leaping eyes are growing the subscriber base for online video programming. At the end of April, for instance, Hulu announced it had more than six million subscribers only four months after hitting five million. Netflix said last month that it had hit a new record of nearly 54 million subscribers for its streaming video service.

But Experian predicts that broadcast- or cable-delivered TV will continue to be the dominant player, at least for the foreseeable future.

It will also continue to provide a large portion of online programming. The research firm, for instance, found that cable stalwart CNN is one of the top three properties on smartphones and desktops, with the other two being YouTube and Netflix.

And Internet has become a permanent part of TV. A third of U.S. households, according to Experian, now live with Internet-connected TVs, although Fetto noted that many households rarely use that connection in its current form. In June, market researcher eMarketer saw a similar figure of 35 percent of the U.S. households having Net-connected TVs, rising to nearly three-quarters by 2018.

As interfaces become easier to use on Net-connected TVs, viewing Net video through a TV screen will more often become just another channel for the majority of American viewers, albeit a mega-channel.

Sappington believes that consumers don’t care which method they use, “so long as they can access the content they want to watch,” when they want to watch it.

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