Watching TV online in Australia has become a mainstream activity, with 5.2 million Australians looking at in the last six months, according to ACMA’s “Online Video Content Services in Australia” report. The report defines Internet TV as the watching of professionally produced online video content (OVC) where the transmission medium is the Internet.
The most common delivery mechanisms is the free-to-air (FTA) TV stations’ catch-up TV. The most popular of these is the ABC’s iView (modelled in the BBC’s highly successful iPlayer). Recent episodes of TV shows are the most popular content.
The provision of OVC services in Australia has generally taken two major forms, says the report:
- Catch-up television offered by FTA television broadcasters on an over-the-top (OTT) basis—enabling viewers to access recently aired shows via the Internet, usually free of access charges.
- High-end Internet protocol television (iPTV) services—providing users with access to video content in return for a subscription, or fee-per-view provided by ISPs.
More recently, says the report, “a third form is growing, where increases in broadband speed have given rise to a growth in paid-for, OTT content services that are offered direct from the content provider to the consumer, potentially challenging the role of ISP as intermediary.”
There is no mention in the report of the use of illegal OVC downloading through Bit Torrent and similar sites, which anecdotal evidence suggests is widespread. But the report does find a high level of willingness to pay for online video. Half of those intending to access an online video service in the next six months indicated they were prepared to pay for such access.
The report is the first of three in the complementary series and details the state of the Australian professional video market from both the consumer and industry perspective. ACMA has a history of producing well researched research reports, and this latest is no disappointment. It provides insights into how rapidly evolving audience preferences are driving fundamental changes in the way professional video content is being consumed and delivered in Australia.
- Nearly half (43%, or 5.2 million) of Australia’s adult population accessed professionally produced OVC services in the six months to June 2012.
- Full-length television programs (61% of OVC users) and films (32%) were the most frequently reported content accessed. Adoption of these services has been encouraged by factors such as the increasing amount of program content made available online, faster Internet speeds and more affordable data costs.
- Australia’s FTA broadcasters are leading the move to online viewing, providing the opportunity for audiences to catch-up on recently-aired television programs at the click of a mouse, mostly free of additional access charges. During June 2012, an estimated 11% of online adults used a catch-up TV service.
- The ABC’s iView has been an obvious innovator in this area, being the first to offer smartphone-compatible content and most recently making some internationally released shows available to online users in Australia well before their scheduled programming time – Doctor Who being the best example.
- The viewing of high-quality professional Internet television services, also known as internet protocol television (iPTV), is less popular, with only 5% of Internet-connected households using it. This low take-up figure may be because of low awareness of these services, high cost, or lack of tim. At June 2012, only 38% of Internet users in Australia were even aware of IPTV services, compared to 51% awareness of catch-up TV.
The massive growth in Internet TV in Australia comes as no surprise – it is the way of the future. But the ACMA report covers only the facts, and ignores some of the underlying issues. People’s viewing habits are changing, and they are increasingly expecting to be able to watch what they want, when they want, as the growth in PVRs (personal video recorders) shows.
The report shows a willingness to pay for content, but ignores the fact that many people are not doing so, and skirting the law, by downloading OVC content that is simply not available through conventional sources. Until business models based on outmoded distribution models change, so-called “piracy” will continue to grow. It is not about cost – it is about convenience.