How Long Until Internet TV Overtakes Traditional TV?

Jul 9th, 2007 | By | Category: Internet TV, Streaming Video, Video

MSN is hyping its audience for the 24-hour LiveEarth event, which was broadcast live on the Internet. According to MSN, the event received more than ten milion video streams and had the most viewers of any online concert ever.

“History is being made today,” said Joanne Bradford, corporate vice president and chief media officer of MSN. “The over 10 million streams MSN has delivered so far today represent a milestone in live Internet broadcasting. We expect to see an even greater number of streams after the concerts are over as people return to watch their favorite performances or enjoy them for the first time if they missed the concerts live.”

Ten million streams is huge for an Internet event, and is beginning to get close to the number of viewers that hit television shows get. Last week (the week of June 25th), the number one show NBC’s America’s Got Talent had about 11.5 million viewers (Nielsen), slightly more than the LiveEarth event. The second most-viewed US television show, though, CSI, had about ten million viewers – about the same as the LiveEarth event.

Obviously, this isn’t comparing apples to apples. An online stream isn’t the same as a viewer, LiveEarth was a 24-hour event, not an hour-long show, and it might be more fair to compare the audience for this event to something like the Academy Awards, which gets about 40 million viewers.

Nevertheless, it’s clear that we are watching Internet television catch up with traditional broadcast TV. Currently, Internet TV is typically kludgy, lower-quality and not nearly as user-friendly as broadcast television, but that’s changing rapidly.

US broadcast television is scheduled to go digital on February 17, 2009, by order of the Federal Communications Commission. Broadcast television’s move to digital could be the start of something big. But with Internet broadcast audiences in the millions, video download audiences in the tens of millions, and portable devices like the iPhone making Internet video increasingly available, it’s starting to look the broadcast television’s switch to digital may be traditional television’s last hurrah.

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