In a golden age for quality television, it may be the TV sets that suffer.
Almost one fourth of people under 25 now watch most of their TV online. The authors of a new survey estimate that 800,000 U.S. households got rid of their cable subscriptions last year, and expect the number to double by the end of 2011. The loss is still small, given the 101 million subscribers nationwide, writes TechCrunch's Erick Schonfeld, but cord-cutters "are a leading indicator of the shift to TV viewing on the Web."
Another new report confirms the trend: Hulu, the TV show-streaming Web site, broke a viewer record in February, according to internet marketing research firm comScore. Visitors to the site watched an average 2.4 hours of TV each that month, which may mean the site is becoming big enough to be a financial "Holy Grail" for the entertainment industry.
There are other ways of reaching people through video outside the home. Americans may not watch full shows on them, but screens in places such as health clubs, gas stations and elevators have a broader ad audience than prime-time television.
Mobile broadcasting service Flo TV is diversifying its offerings with pay-per-day and event passes alongside its monthly subscriptions in order to gain scale and a dozen broadcasters including Fox and NBC just announced a new national mobile service. The nascent venture will feature live video, entertainment and local and national news. It seems to be at an early stage, but the hope is that it will eventually reach 150 million consumers.
But, fear not, the shifting sands of TV watching don't necessarily mean the beloved TV set is dying, argues TechCrunch's Schonfeld:
When any screen can be a TV, people will watch the one that is closest. And the easier it becomes to connect your computer to your flat screen TV, the more the online video sites and services will become just another set of channels.