Cisco: Professional Content, Not YouTube, Leads U.S. Online Video Boom

YouTube has almost become a synonym for online video in recent years, but professional online video platforms like are dominating YouTube’s dancing babies, according to a new Cisco (s CSCO) study. The company just announced the results of its Visual Networking Index Survey (PDF), which compared TV and online viewing habits in the U.S., China, Germany and Sweden. The survey finds that U.S. Internet users spend 2.5 times longer watching professional content as user-generated video clips on their PCs.


Video viewing devices used by U.S. Internet users. Chart courtesy of Cisco.

These results should be music to the ears of Hulu’s management, but the survey also shows that content owners have to play catchup when it comes to licensing their catalogs for overseas audiences. Germans spend twice as much time on their PCs and laptops viewing user-generated videos as opposed to professional content, most likely because there just is no yet. However, Cisco and other devices makers still have some work left to do, as well:  Many Internet users around the world don’t seem to be too excited about the prospect of online video on their TVs.

The Cisco study is based on a survey conducted by the Center for the Digital Future at the USC’s Annenberg School for Communication, which surveyed about 1,000 users in each of the four countries. The study isn’t too specific when it comes to the distinction between user-generated and professional content, but a Cisco spokesperson told us that “professional” encompasses studio-produced shows and movies, as distinct from consumer-produced videos.

This is the first time Annenberg and Cisco have done this survey, but it’s probably safe to assume that user-generated content would have been far more prominent in the years before Hulu. Also, professional content may be taking up more of the users’ time may simply because TV shows and movies tend to be much longer than your average YouTube video.

The study also covers the devices used to watch video and television programming, which again showed significant differences between the U.S. and the rest of the world. 42 percent of U.S. respondents own a DVR, whereas only 11 percent of all Germans surveyed time-shift TV watching in their living room.

The U.S. is also a front-runner when it comes to mobile video. About 23 percent declared that they watch video on their mobile phones, while only 8-12 percent do so in Sweden, China and Germany. Watching videos on iPods and other non-phone devices is also most popular in the U.S., but at 8 percent, far less prominent than one might think.

So, overall, where is online video most popular? No, it’s not the U.S., despite Hulu. It’s China. Chinese Internet users spend almost two hours per day watching video on their PCs, compared with 1.8 hours per day in front of their TVs.  U.S. (and German) users watch 1.5 hours of online video per day — far less than the 3.8 hours of traditional TV time U.S. respondents enjoy daily. This makes Chinese Internet users the only ones that actually watch more video on their PCs that on the TV — and they don’t seem to be bothered about this at all.

“When asked if they would be interested in watching video found on the Internet on their television set, most seemed apathetic, or perhaps they did not understand the question,”‘ the report notes somewhat condescendingly. Perhaps they just didn’t understand why anyone would ask them such a silly question.

Americans, on the other hand, love their big, flat-screen TVs. However, the interest in getting online content on that screen seemed somewhat muted, even stateside. The majority of users where up for the idea, the report notes without providing specific details, but “relatively large numbers (…) neither agreed or disagreed, suggesting that maybe they are unaware of the possibility.” I guess all those companies presenting new, Internetenabled set-top-boxes at CES these days still have some convincing to do.