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Video on Demand Is Mainstreaming

Posted on: May 31, 2013

Wednesday evening and, whilst I am busy watching last week’s Apprentice, on my iPad, before tonight’s show, my flatmate is catching up on vintage Arrested Development on her laptop before the new series is released, and my other flatmate is watching a period drama recorded on our Sky+ Box.

It becomes incredibly clear to me how viewing habits have dramatically changed over the last 5 years. A third of all adults in the UK use online Video on Demand (VOD). In a study by Cisco it emerged that 94% of 18-24 year olds use online VOD and a report by Mediacom confirms that viewers in this age bracket actually prefer to watch content online than on a traditional TV set. This transition has been embraced by the industry’s big players, with BBC iPlayer releasing six online-only films, and NetFlix funding the production of a new series of Arrested Development, along with House of Cards and Hemlock Grove.

Netflix’s success is a reflection of how the popularisation of online video has changed our viewing habits. Now we can watch what we want, when we want, where we want, rather than just succumbing to whatever happens to be on TV. Viewers have become more selective about the programs they watch. This means that shows like Arrested Development, which once struggled to find an audience on mainstream TV , can now effectively reach their target market, and this in turn can grow NetFlix’s subscriber numbers.

It also means that the typical prime time remote control battle has ended, as each family member can now watch their program of choice on their preferred device. This is of course driven by the growing number of devices on which these services are available from Android tablets to Wii U’s.

Despite critics speculating that NetFlix and Hulu’s success is exclusively down to early adopters and as a consequence their growth is soon set to plateau, and NetFlix’s shares yo-yoing, there is no doubt that VOD is here to stay. The BBC iPlayer for example now receives over 200 million requests per month, and after 5 years has become a standard platform for on-demand consumption to a very wide demographic.

Now the only question is will we manage to follow Mitch Hurwitz’s (the creator of Arrested Development) advice to not watch the entire new series all at once, as all 15 episodes were made available simultaneously? As an ambassador of “binge watching”, another typical trend of the VOD generation, I know, that personally, I will not.