Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Online Video

What They Watch Online

Amateur vs. Professional: What do users prefer?

Most online video viewers prefer professionally-produced video over content “produced by amateurs.” However, the segments that do express a preference for amateur content or say they like both genres equally is sizable, and those who are among the most coveted viewers by advertisers (men ages 18-29) are the most likely to express a preference for amateur video.

Overall, 62% of online video viewers say that their favorite videos are those that are professionally produced, while 19% of online video viewers express a preference for amateur content. Another 11% say they enjoy both professionally-produced video and amateur online video equally.

Young men are among those least likely to express a preference for professionally-produced video.

Again, young adults stand out as a unique group of online video viewers. Fully 30% of online video viewers ages 18-29 say they prefer amateur video, and 16% say they like both amateur and professionally-produced video equally. Just 51% of young adult viewers say their favorite videos to watch are those that are professionally-produced. For young adult men who are online video viewers, that number is even lower; 43% express a clear preference for professional video, while 34% prefer amateur content. Another 19% of male video viewers ages 18-29 say they enjoy both amateur and professional content.

Those who rate or comment on video are also more likely than the average online video viewer to express a preference for amateur material; while 48% say they still prefer professional video, 26% prefer amateur content and 21% say they enjoy both types of video equally.

37% of adult internet users report online news video viewing and 10% say they watch news video on a typical day.

News outlets were among the first big investors in the online video realm and their early-mover advantage shows. News video is the most-watched genre of video, with 37% of adult internet users reporting some type of viewing or downloading, and 10% saying they watch news videos on a typical day. Aside from the plethora of news content posted on video sharing sites like YouTube and Google Video, news-related video can now be found on virtually any website associated with major network TV news channels, cable TV news, and on most mainstream newspaper websites. Additionally, blogs, video podcasts, personal websites and social networking websites also feature news-related video.

Video: What they're watching

News video is the most popular category for everyone except young adults.

News content captures the attention of users across all generations, and is the most popular genre with every age group except for those ages 18-29. For young adults, comedy is a bigger draw, with 56% of internet users ages 18-29 saying they watch humorous videos, compared with 43% who say they watch news videos. However, on a typical day, young adult internet users are equally as likely to view news and comedy; 15% of those 18-29 report viewing in both categories on the average day. Indeed, much of the content viewed by young adults, such as clips from The Daily Show or The Colbert Report blurs the line between news and comedy.

News video viewing is more prevalent among men than it is among women; 42% of online men report news video consumption, versus 32% of online women. In addition, men are twice as likely as women to watch or download news video on a typical day—14% of online men report this, compared with 7% of online women.

Those with higher levels of income and education are more likely to report news video viewing, a trend that is not consistent across all video content categories. Particularly with respect to income, online video viewers in other genres tend to be equally distributed among different earning groups.

News Shows; Comedy Shows

Comedy and humorous videos attract the largest number of young adult viewers.

Comedy and humorous videos are the second-most-viewed genre of online video among the total population of online adults, and the top genre for young adult viewers; 31% of internet users have watched or downloaded comedic or humorous videos and 7% do so on a typical day. Among young adult internet users, 56% have watched humorous online videos, while 15% do so on a typical day. Any visit to YouTube or Google Video will yield links to featured or popular videos meant to inspire a laugh. What some consider funny, others may find offensive or dumb, but the sheer range of humorous video—whether it’s silly pet antics, red carpet fashion snafus or professionally-produced political satire—provide a veritable cornucopia of content to choose from.

Young adults consume and probably also contribute much of the video content that falls into the comedy category. While more than half of young adult internet users say they watch or download humorous video online, just 29% of users ages 30-49, 17% of those 50-64, and 12% of those ages 65 and older report this. As is the case with news content, male users are also more active consumers of comedy content online; 38% of men watch or download comedy video, versus 25% of online women. On a typical day 9% of male users and 5% of female users watch or download humorous video content.

With bite-sized clips, music videos also draw young audiences online.

Like news, music videos can also readily cross over into the comedy category. Weird Al Yankovic’s “White and Nerdy” music video is one of the most-viewed videos of all time on YouTube, and is listed in both the music and comedy category. Music videos have been a popular subject of user-generated parodies online; musician James Blunt’s chart topper, “You’re Beautiful” has been the subject of numerous parodies, and “Paxilback,” a slick spoof of Justin Timberlake’s “Sexyback” helped the People Food artist collective secure a contract with United Talent Agency.6

Overall, 22% of adult internet users watch or download some type of music videos online and 4% do so on a typical day. In many ways, those who produce music videos – both professionals and amateurs — have been well-poised to take advantage of the internet as a distribution medium simply because of the bite-size nature of most music videos. Professional rock band OK Go has been hugely successful at creating humorous and clever dance videos on a shoestring budget to promote their songs, and amateur musicians have utilized the site as a way to get feedback on new songs or live performances.

However, as is the case with comedy, young adults are usually the ones watching. While 46% of users ages 18-29 are music video consumers, less than half as many 30-49 year olds (19%) say they watch or download music video online. Just 9% of users age 50 and older watch or download music videos. It comes as no surprise, then, that young adults are also the most frequent music video viewers; 13% say they watch music video on an average day.

To a generation weaned on MTV, music videos are a form of cultural currency, and having the ability to share that viewing experience with friends can be as much about social interaction as it is about entertainment. Yet, young adults certainly are not the only ones who might be attracted to this type of social video sharing. The vast archive of music videos available online offers ample opportunities for discovery and rediscovery of live and prerecorded music footage. Thanks to tagging, music videos from the 80’s, concert footage from the 70’s and even television clips from the 60’s can all be called up with a simple search. Just because the content was created before the digital era doesn’t mean someone hasn’t already gone through the trouble of digitizing it.

Online men are generally more likely to consume music videos when compared with women (26% vs. 19%), but both groups are equally as likely to seek out music videos on a typical day (5% vs. 4%). Much of the gap between men and women for music video viewing stems from the 30-49 age group. For young adults, and users over the age of 50, differences in the incidence of music video viewing are not significant.

Music Videos; Educational Videos

Educational videos interest viewers of all ages.

While music videos may be created primarily for entertainment, videos with educational content are equally as popular among the general population of internet users, and even more so for older adults. Roughly one in five internet users (22%) say they watch or download educational videos, and 3% do so on a typical day. However, there is very little variation across age groups; young adult internet users watch or download educational video content at about the same rate as users aged 65 and older (28% vs. 21%).

Learning a new language, educating yourself about home remodeling techniques, or earning a degree online can all be facilitated through the use of online video. Sometimes referred to as “How-to” or “DIY” videos, these clips range from those that provide practical everyday tips such as, “How to fold a tee-shirt perfectly,” to those that visually illustrate theories or concepts, as is done in “Web 2.0…The Machine is Us/ing Us.”

Men and women report educational video watching at the same level; 24% of online men consume educational videos vs. 20% of online women. This is the only genre of online video, other than movies and TV, where there is gender parity among those who watch.

Animation and cartoons garner the young male audience.

Animation videos have captured the attention of 19% of the online population of adults. Three percent of internet users report watching or downloading animated video on a typical day. Not surprisingly, younger users account for much of the animation audience online, as 32% of internet users ages 18-29 say they watch or download animation or cartoons online, while 19% of users age 30-49 report this. Just 9% of users age 50 and older say they have watched animated videos online.

Male users are somewhat more likely to say they watch animation online (23% vs. 16%), but much of this difference stems from young males, nearly 40% of whom watch or download animated videos.

Animation or Cartoons; Movies or TV Shows

Full-length movies and TV shows are still making their way online.

One in six internet users (16%) say they watch or download “movies or TV shows,” but it is likely that this figure does not account for all of those who simply watch excerpts from movies and TV shows, which are consistently among the most viewed content on the major video sharing sites. Many movies and television shows are also widely available on peer-to-peer networks and Bit Torrent sites. Some estimates suggest that video files account for 10% of file-sharing activity on peer-to-peer networks.7

At the same time, there has been a big push from the major television networks to provide more full-length episodes of primetime television shows for free online. ABC’s “Lost” and “Desperate Housewives” were among the first free offerings, and many other shows, such as NBC’s “The Office” and “Law & Order” have followed suit. However, some research suggests that many viewers are not aware of the streaming television content available online. A study released in January 2007 by CBS Research found that just 56% of U.S. television viewers were aware that they could watch streaming video of network TV shows online.8

Movies and television content are also the province of the young; nearly a third of users ages 18-29 watch or download movies and TV shows, while half as many among those ages 30-49 do so (30% vs. 16%). Just 7% of users age 50 and older say they get movies and television shows online. Male and female users say they get movies and TV shows online in equal numbers (16% and 17%).

Political content resonates most with active viewers who rate or comment on video.

As we noted in our “Election 2006 Online Report” report, the rise of online video as a political force was a major story during the last election. The number of Americans relying on the internet for political news and information had doubled since 2002, and video had already started to play a pivotal role in delivering information related to the 2008 elections.

Political video content currently garners about the same number of viewers as those who say they watch or download movies and television shows online; 15% of internet users say they have sought out political video content online, and 2% report doing this on a typical day. Most political video viewers are under the age of 50 and have higher levels of education. One in five young adult internet users watch political video content online and 5% will do so on a typical day. Online men are more likely to view political content when compared with online women; 18% vs. 12%.

Political content is especially popular among the segment of video viewers who rate or comment on online video. Fully 44% of those who give some form of feedback after viewing say they seek political video online.

Political Videos; Sports Videos

The audience for sports video content is modest relative to the size of the total sports information-seeking public.

Whether viewers are interested in highlights or bloopers, soccer or hurling, sports video content is widely available online. However, the total audience that seeks any kind of sports information online is three times the size of the sports video watching audience. In August of 2006, 45% of adult internet users said they got sports scores and information online and 15% did so on a typical day. In comparison, 14% of internet users now say they watch or download sports video and 3% say they do so on a typical day.

The sports video audience is heavily dominated by male viewers; online men are almost four times as likely as online women to have watched or downloaded sports video (23% vs. 6%). Unsurprisingly, young adults report higher levels of sports video consumption. One in four internet users (24%) ages 18-29 watch or download sports video, compared with 14% of those 30-49, 8% of those 50-64 and just 7% of those 65 and older.

One in eight internet users watch or download commercials online.

Commercial video content is often integrated into other types of online video, and is a staple component of banner advertising on many popular websites, such as and Yahoo properties. Users may actively seek out commercial videos – for instance, when searching for Super Bowl advertisements or nostalgic commercials about Apple computers from the 1980’s – or they may passively view commercial content streaming on a site where they are reading a news article or searching for health information.

When asked if they ever use the internet to watch or download commercials or advertisements, 13% of internet users say “yes.” A mere 2% of internet users say they watch commercials on an average day.

Young adults are twice as likely as users age 50 and older to say they watch or download commercial videos online; 22% of those 18-29, 13% of users ages 30-49, 7% of users age 50-64 and 8% of those ages 65 and older say they consume commercial video content online.

Commercials or Ads; Adult Video

Young male users are the most likely to say they have watched or downloaded adult video online.

While respondents are highly unlikely to admit that they view adult video content, 6% of internet users do report watching or downloading adult video content online, and 1% report adult video consumption on a typical day. Men and younger users are unsurprisingly the ones most likely to report adult video viewing. While 11% of male internet users say they watch or download adult video content online, just 1% of female internet users report this. Likewise, 13% of users ages 18-29, 5% of those 30-49, 1% of those 50-64 and 3% of those 65 and older say they watch or download adult video.

Few pay to access online video.

Providing free access to video content has been central to the popularity of YouTube and other online video portals. At the moment, few online video viewers are paying for any of the video they watch; just 7% of say they have paid to access or download video online.

However, young adults, who are often thought to have little interest in paying for music and other digital media, are actually more likely than older video viewers to have paid for online video content. While 10% of online video viewers ages 18-29 have paid to access or download online video, just 3% of video viewers ages 50-64 have done so.

There are currently no significant differences between men and women and users across all economic and education levels when it comes to paying for online video content. However, among the small group of video viewers who say they also upload video content (n=93), 20% say they have paid for access to online video. Just 5% of video viewers who have never uploaded say they have paid for video.

  1. See, “Talent Agency Is Aiming to Find Web Video Stars,” available at:
  2. See “Hollywood Reeling from Illegal Movie, TV Downloads.” Available at:
  3. See “CBS: Viewers Not Aware Of Online Programs” January 5, 2007. Available at:
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