Will online viewers change TV?


Feb. 17, 2009 at midnight
Updated Nov. 4, 2009 at 5:04 a.m.

When Alex Miranda wants to watch a TV show he missed, all he has to do is turn on his computer.

Miranda, regional manager at Victoria's The Phone Store, is a part of the growing trend of people watching online video.

"During the summer we'll watch some of the shows on ABC.com" Miranda said. "I also watch Break.com and JakeandAmir.com, which is pretty funny, too."

Since he works in retail, working odd or long hours, sometimes the only way to catch up with shows he has missed is by viewing them online, Miranda said.

"I watch some of my shows on Hulu like 'The Office,' since I don't always get to see it on TV," Miranda said.

Lucila Vazquez of Victoria said she is not an avid TV viewer, but does watch certain shows like ABC's "Lost.''

"Sometimes I catch it on TV. Other times I'm busy so I'll watch it on my own time at ABC.com," Vazquez said. "Another one I use is Hulu.com."

Hulu.com has grown in popularity since it was made public in March 2008. The online service provides free streaming video featuring TV shows, movies and clips from various providers, including ABC, NBC Universal, MGM, Sony Pictures Television and Warner Bros.

Some cable companies are starting to take notice of the growth of free online video content.

The chief executive of Time Warner Cable Inc., Glenn Britt, shared his concerns during a quarterly earnings discussion with analysts on Feb. 4. "We are starting to see the beginning of cord cutting. People will choose not to buy subscription video if they can get the same stuff for free," Britt said.

Although Time Warner reported a loss of 119,000 basic video customers in the fourth quarter, Gene Regan, director of corporate communications for Suddenlink Communications, said via e-mail he had not seen a trend where customers were cutting off their cable and depending on the Internet for TV content. Although a few people might be doing it, he said, the company has seen no discernible trend.

Regan also said the company's high-speed Internet business has seen double-digit percentage increases.

Suddenlink serves about 20,000 residential customers in the Victoria area with a mix of TV, Internet and phone service, Regan said.

Broadband usage is exploding at a rapid pace and is driven by trends like video and music downloading, photo sharing and online gaming, AT&T spokesperson Mike Barger said. If the trend continues, he said, AT&T would see its total bandwidth increase by four times in the next three years.

By the year 2010, about 20 households will use as much Internet capacity as the entire world did in 1995, Barger said, citing Internet Innovation Alliance research.

Vazquez said she thinks eventually networks will have all episodes online, making it easier for consumers to watch TV programming whenever they want.

"If they did that, I would watch more TV ... but if all the shows I wanted were online, I'd probably be stuck to my computer," Vazquez said with a laugh.



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