Net Viewing of Full TV Shows Rises

Internet users have progressed beyond quick YouTube clips to widespread viewing of full-length network television shows. According to a Nielsen Media Research study quoted in The New York Times, one in four online viewers has streamed full programs in the last three months. That includes not only 39 percent of viewers ages 18-34 but also 23 percent ages 35-54.

Among the online hits is Grey's Anatomy, whose 26 million online viewers effectively added two full points to its ratings. Other shows popular online include Heroes, Ugly Betty, CSI, House, and Gossip Girl. Viewers use the net to catch up on missed shows or to discover new ones. They like watching talkative shows like The Office on portable devices but prefer the special effects of Heroes on a big screen.

Unfortunately for the networks, online advertising is nowhere near as lucrative as on-air ads, though it can be more precisely targeted and therefore make more of an impression. The bulk of viewers watch free ad-supported websites. NBC.com has dispensed half a billion video streams in the last year, and ABC.com clocked 220 million ad impressions. Paid downloads on iTunes, Amazon, and the like are less popular and some networks refuse to offer programs in the online stores at all.

Now older series are hitting the network websites. Look out for I Dream of Jeannie, MacGyver, The A-Team, and--yesss!--Star Trek.

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