CRTC: new media, digital growing

TV viewership was down last year, while Internet-on-cellphone and other new media continued to rise.

Canadians watched slightly less television in 2006, while the demand for Internet and other new media platforms continued to rise, according to the CRTC’s annual Broadcasting Policy Monitoring Report, released yesterday.

The report noted that 70% of Canuck households subscribed to the Internet in 2006 – a 6% rise from the year before – while Canadians watched 27.6 hours of TV per week, down from 28.1. The drop is ‘not a huge number, but I think new media has a role to play in that,’ says Doug Davis, VP of research for Alliance Atlantis.

‘Viewing habits are changing, especially in the younger age groups,’ he adds. ’13- or 14-year-olds are more likely to consume media in an open way by downloading (to cellphones), for example. Their viewing habits aren’t as strongly entrenched as someone who is 45 years old,’ he adds.

The CRTC says 58% of Canadians used a cellphone to access the Internet last year. On television, digital channels represented only 5% of the sector’s revenues but, the report notes, subscriptions to digi’s rose by 10% to 5.8 billion in 2006.

David Purdy, VP/GM of TV services for Rogers Cable, says it usually takes a while for advertising revenue to catch up to eyeballs. ‘Typically, you’re selling your advertising inventory based on last year’s results, not on this year’s viewership. So the broader penetration of digital specialty channels will drive much more incremental revenue for 2008 than it did for 2007.’

‘The digitals don’t represent a huge part of the advertising revenue pie, but it is growing,’ agrees Davis. ‘Not only does it offer time-shifting and VOD, but it’s also servicing niches, for those who like British programming or action movies, for example,’ he says, adding that consumers want more choice.

Purdy notes that more than 52% of Rogers’ total customer base have at least one digital box in their household, and says the company continues to add 200,000 to 250,000 digital customers per year.

‘I think many of the prime-time episodic shows on CTV and CanWest will become available on demand in 2008,’ he adds, ‘and that will continue to drive digital.’

This story first appeared in Playback Daily.