Online video only growing because it's free

Users turned off by paid-for alternatives to Hulu
Users turned off by paid-for alternatives to Hulu

Have you ever paid for online video? If so, you're in the minority, according to a new survey by international research firm Parks Associates.

It found that while 31 per cent of broadband households in Western Europe have downloaded a movie or TV show for free in the last six months, only 8 per cent have paid for an Internet download.

"While you always expect free to outpace for-pay offerings, the real problem emerges for content and solution providers when analysing consumers' preferred means of watching video," said John Barrett, director, research, Parks Associates.

No wants to pay for online video

Apparently, the vast majority of us (over 80 per cent) still prefer to view video via traditional routes such as sticking on a DVD, going to the cinema or even watching plain old broadcast telly.

"Since so many users are watching online video only because it is free," says Barrett, "They will likely step away from the computer if they have to start paying for it."

He goes on to warn that given these findings, merely combating piracy (which is a problem in Spain and Italy), won't solve all the challenges in devising viable online video services.

The research could prove to be a timely warning to US cable TV operators. Cable giant Comcast is considering launch an on-demand online site offering legal cable TV content, although it's not yet certain whether it will be a free service (like the wildly popular BBC iPlayer and (opens in new tab)) or involve payment.

Mark Harris is Senior Research Director at Gartner.