Huge rewards await firms offering Canadians video online

Canadian Internet users increasingly want to use the Web to access their favourite video programs, a new survey reveals.

Business opportunities abound for companies that can capitalize on those desires, experts suggest.

Canadian Internet users are moving activities traditionally conducted offline to an online environment, according to a survey released last week by Toronto-based Rogers Cable Communications Inc.

The survey also indicates that Canadians are also interested in watching more video on their computer screens.

Half the respondents said they were interested in watching TV on their computers, while nearly half (49 per cent) wanted to make video phone calls.

Another 46 per cent wanted to create and share videos with friends.

Those results suggest there are some untapped business opportunities to be realized on the Web, according to Max Valiquette, president of Youthography, a marketing consultancy in Toronto.

“Anything that offers rich media, whether video or audio in a very digestible form is a huge opportunity,” he says. “People want it, but where do you go online to get it right now?”

A one-stop-shop for Canadian television shows could do very well, he says.

Currently many Canadians may not be aware that networks are starting to stream their shows online, or offer them for download through Apple’s iTunes online store, Valiquette adds.

Or they are frustrated by the unreliability and questionable legality of Web sites or file sharing networks offering up TV shows.

A one-stop shop for Canadian television shows could do very well, he says. Users could tolerate watching advertising for streaming video, or pay a fee to download video.

“It’s happened in music, but it hasn’t happened for TV or movies,” says the market researcher.

Oakville, Ont.-based Movidity Inc. hopes to cash in on some of that video demand. Their technology crunches multimedia files down to a size that standard cell phones can handle, and serve it up with their MyMovy Web service.

“Imagine being able to have 300 channels of live television, live sporting events, YouTube and other tins compiled into one service,” says Mobility founder Mauro Lollo.

“Our claim to fame is our ability to deliver media to all kinds of mobile devices on networks that are questionable.”

Internet users are embracing the ability to have information on demand, Lollo says.

Video is just another example of the market changing to one where users pull the information they want, instead of being pushed information from big broadcasters, he adds.

“We saw an opportunity to marry a few things together. Our value proposition is to reach a wide audience, empower the consumer to see what they want, when they want it, and on the device they want.”

If the market moves quickly enough to exploit people’s interests, then DVD and Blu-Ray discs could be going the way of the dodo bird, and the music CD.

It is the next step of the Web’s transformation of traditional media channels, says Andy Woyzbun, lead analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group.

“People are going to find it much more convenient to download content,” he says. “That’s a structural thing already happening, and it is not even a choice. You’ll either adapt or you’ll be making buggy whips.”

Canadian Internet users spend about 17 hours a week online on average, according to the survey.

Top activities include communicating over social networks (nine in 10 respondents) and shopping online (65 per cent).

This is a reflection of Canadians having Internet access from their home and office, Valiquette says. People will use it for personal reasons from their office instead of waiting until after their shift.

“Online shopping is a great example,” he says. “If you get an e-mail from eBay that you’ve been outbid on an auction, then you’re going to take 30 seconds out of your work day and view that item.”

The survey shows that Canadians are going to the Internet with increased frequency to scout out information about companies or products.

This not only underlines the need for businesses to have a Web presence, but to have rich media on their site – to offer the high quality experience surfers are demanding.

“Why not have a virtual tour of your plant?” Valiquette asks. “Why not have someone explain your business in a video? Or instead of an executive bio, a 30-second video of that person talking to you.”

Companies have been using the Internet for years to deliver brochures and technical support for their products, says Woyzbun. Now the Web can go further than a mere replacement for the print brochure, but offer an educational video on how to get your new gadget installed and running.

Support for customer use of the Web will become a major area of competition, the Info-Tech analyst predicts.

“There’s an opportunity to cater to the tastes of their customers,” he says. “Those who hesitate are going to be left behind by market leaders.”

Areas of Internet use that did not see growth were online video games and downloading music.

Only one per cent more respondents downloaded music this year compared to 2007 for a total of 44 per cent. Video gaming saw no change at 38 per cent.

That’s still a lot of people doing those activities, even if they’re not growing, Valiquette points out. But perhaps the markets have reached saturation point.

The Internet could be seeing the limits of growth in these areas, agrees Woyzbun. He admits to playing a part in that stoppage.

“I’ll never play online games, so I’ll always be a part of that group that will never register.”  

Despite the survey’s demonstration that Canadian Internet users are trying out more activities online, there are no metrics demonstrating how often they are doing them, Woyzbun says. People might be trying certain things, but not committing to them.

“The interesting question would be ‘how many of your bills do you pay online?’” he says.

The online survey is accurate within +/- three percentage points, 19 times out of 20. Respondents had to hold at least one bank account.

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