tablet videoDiscovery, consumption, and acquisition of TV shows and movies is changing fast as viewer-consumers increasingly turn to digital sources – streaming, downloading or purchasing discs. To what degree this is occurring is obscured somewhat by commercial marketing and promotional efforts. In a new study, the Consumer Electronics Association (CEA) provides primary data and insight into consumer viewing and purchasing preferences, and the evolving relationship between traditional and digital video content and providers.

While a significant number of online U.S. adults are turning to digital sources to discover, watch and purchase TV programs and movies, a large majority (79%) continue to obtain the video content they watch via traditional sources – cable, satellite or fiber-to-the-home (FTTH), according to CEA’s, “Video Content Discovery and Purchasing Trends.”

When it comes to sources of digital content, online U.S. adults are turning to DVD/Blu-ray discs (66%), free video streaming services (47%), and paid streaming services (37%). Younger consumers (ages 18-34) make greater use of paid streaming services, according to CEA.

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The results indicate that digital and online video content is more of a supplement to, as opposed to a replacement for, traditional sources, CEA says.

“Access to faster Internet speeds and dramatic advances in mobile technology have changed the face of video content delivery and consumption,” CEA senior analyst Kevin Tillmann was quoted in a press release.

“However, digital content is not necessarily a substitute for traditional content sources, but instead an additional source from which U.S. consumers can quench their insatiable thirst for video content.”

More than half (53%) of survey respondents said they skip commercials. Nonetheless, “traditional television programming is critical to the discovery of new video content, for both movies and TV shows,” according to CEA.

Some of the key findings related to video content discovery include:

  • The sources consumers use most frequently to discover new movies are channel surfing (44 percent), on-screen program guides (44 percent), previews at the movie theater (39 percent), commercials on TV (39 percent) and word of mouth (37 percent).
  • The leading ways consumers discover TV shows are channel surfing (50 percent), on-screen program guides (47 percent), TV commercials (47 percent), word of mouth (34 percent) and network websites such as NBC or CBS (27 percent).

Exploring the devices consumers are using to watch streaming or downloaded video, laptops (52%), desktop PCs (44%), and HDTVs (40%) were the most commonly cited devices. About one-third view digital video on smartphones (32%) and tablets (31%).

When it comes to acquiring video content, CEA found that consumers prefer owning a physical product as opposed to digital downloads or on-demand streaming. Fifty-two percent of respondents said they like owning a physical product and the ability to watch video using their DVD/Blu-ray players (50%). About three-fourths (74%) purchase, rent or receive their movies on DVD or Blu-ray disc. Only 24% acquire them via digital download.

Over three-quarters (77%) of online consumers own at least some digital video content. The main reasons for choosing digital formats include access from anywhere (36%), ease of storage (35%), price (32%), instant access (32%), and being able to watch on any Internet-connected device (27%).

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