Surprise, surprise: People aren’t watching as much live TV as they used to.

During a CES keynote address last week, Robert Kyncl, vice president/Global Content Partnerships at YouTube, said he believes it’s likely 75 percent of all channels (TV, online, etc.) will be Internet-only by 2020: “Pretty powerful when you consider that 10 years ago, you could barely view a page on the Internet. What happened in 30 years on cable happens in 10 years with broadband and happens in 5 years with online video.”

In just a few years, he added, online video is expected to account for 90 percent of online traffic.

Backing this up, Nomura analyst Michael Nathanson wrote in a recent research note, “Thanks to either the continued impact of the DVR, shifts in the Nielsen sample, the NBA strike or slight changes in consumption patterns, live primetime TV viewership declined almost 5 percent (in 4Q12) – now 13 straight quarters of live declines.” 

Nathanson also claimed cable’s live ratings fell 5 percent as well, topping broadcast’s 3-percent decline in the same quarter.

The growth in non-live TV viewing cannot be swept under the rug. Nearly two-thirds of the viewing on Web-connected TiVo units now is non-live or on demand via broadband, according to TiVo, meaning just 38 percent is live across approximately 2 million units. And among TiVo subscribers who use Netflix, YouTube or Hulu Plus, live viewership is even lower — at 27 percent. This is something to think about, given last week’s CES announcements about Samsung working directly with MVPDs to send content straight to smart TVs.

“The trend here is obvious,” comments Tara Maitra, TiVo’s senior vice president and GM/content and media sales. “For most of their video, these consumers prefer to watch on-demand, whether it’s recorded off the air, cable, satellite, or delivered via broadband. It really has become all about whatever they want to watch, whenever they want to watch it.”

Moreover, viewers’ use of timeshifted TV has grown 11 percent since 2Q10, according to Nielsen. A global Accenture survey found that the percentage of consumers watching broadcast or cable content on TVs in a typical week fell from 71 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2011.

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Commentary by Steve Effros The term estimate is defined in the dictionary as a “rough approximation,” or “to judge tentatively.” In other words, a guess. It boggles my mind that because Netflix

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