The majority of consumers of all ages in seven major markets around the world are choosing to watch video content over the Internet via their televisions, PCs, smartphones and other electronic devices, according to Accenture’s Video-Over-Internet Consumer Usage Survey.

Among 6 500 consumers surveyed, 85% of participants ages 18 to 24, 82%of participants ages 35 to 44 – an especially important demographic to advertisers – and 64% of participants over the age of 65 are now accessing and interacting with video over desktops, laptops, Internet-connected TVs and mobile devices.  Although the survey was conducted in Australia, Brazil, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK and the US, it strongly resonates with the South African market where mobile phone penetration is estimated to be almost 100%.
“Consumption of video over the Internet is no longer a millennial-generation phenomenon; it’s an activity that crosses all age groups,” says Mark Joseph, Accenture South Africa’s senior executive in the communications and hi-tech practice.  “Video over the Internet is well on its way to becoming a mass medium.  Furthermore, it’s clear that consumers are ready and, in some instances, may be ahead of the industry in terms of the vision they have for how, when and where they watch and interact with video content.”
The survey results reveal that although the television still dominates consumers’ viewing preference (at 92%), the diversity of electronic devices that consumers use to view video is very evenly divided. According to the survey, 75% of respondents use a desktop computer, 72% use a laptop and 63 percent use mobile devices to access content.  Tablet computers, such as iPads which are new to the marketplace, lag behind the pack at 21%, but it is just a question of time before that number climbs significantly, according to Accenture research findings.
“These results suggest a ‘form factor’ challenge when it comes to mobile video viewing,” says Joseph. “With broad access to video across devices with large screens, mobile video viewing will rarely be the first choice among many consumers.  Because of this, providers will need to focus on creating video content specifically for smaller screens such as mobile phones and tablets or on creating programming that complements the large TV screen experience.”
Watching video on non-traditional devices is trending upward.  The survey shows that in the past year, viewing increased on laptops (35%), desktops (28%) and Internet-enabled TVs (26%). These trends were seen across all age groups.  Growth percentages for most devices were nearly identical for the 25-to-34 year old and 18-to-24 year old age groups.
The myriad of content delivery choices available in the digital world has also changed the nature of the entire viewing experience, including traditional TV watching.  There is no longer a single delivery channel or device that receives the uninterrupted attention of viewers.  Of those surveyed, 81% said they multi-task with other devices while watching TV.  Nearly half (48%) use a laptop while watching, 41% use a mobile device and 28% use a desktop computer.
“This fragmented viewing experience may appear to present challenges to advertisers, but companies able to leverage this multi-device, multi-channel addiction of  consumers across devices may gain even more viewer awareness and loyalty,” adds Joseph.
When it comes to choosing their favorite Internet/ broadband TV features and functions, the largest number of respondents (40%) pointed to catch-up TV, which enables them to watch content that they may have missed.  However, only 14% of respondents wish to surf the Web on their televisions and only 11% desire interactive and social networking functionality.
“Viewers want many of the same freedom of choice options that they experience when using their computers to apply to video consumption,” says Joseph.  “They value the ability to watch content anytime, however, they do not necessarily want to surf the web and they see relatively little value in using the TV as a gateway device for other applications.”
The survey also found that the greatest percentage of tablet-enabled consumers (54 percent) is interested in using them for fairly standard video-on-demand and catch-up functions.  Though 44% of tablet users are interested in the ability to interact with on-air programming to receive additional content related to what they are viewing.
Although consumers are viewing video on multiple devices, quality rules the day when they consider selecting new services.  Of those surveyed, 48% identified clarity of picture and speed of content delivery as the most important technical features they look for in an Internet video service.  This proportion was statistically consistent across all age groups.  High-definition viewing was a distant second, at 27%.  The ease of user interface in enabling search and content management, and the use of recommendation engines to point viewers toward content in which they might be interested followed with 14% and 11%, respectively.
“The biggest frustration consumers currently experience with Internet video is the time required to buffer, download and play a video,” says Joseph.  “One of the major issues providers must anticipate and solve if they are to be successful in the IP video marketplace is the ability to handle congestion on the network and perform streaming in such a way as to deliver a high-quality experience.
“Consumers are strongly indicating that they are ready for a true multi-device experience – one that goes beyond simply replicating traditional TV on another device.  They want an experience where content is important, quality is critical and personalisation of the service is a must.  Only through embracing and understanding new consumer behaviors will companies be positioned for success in the burgeoning Over-the-top TV market.”