His kids might commandeer the TV before bedtime, but online game designer John Comes still gets his prime-time fix. Just on a smaller screen.
Using his iPad, he can watch content from traditional TV and cable channels such as ABC, TBS and HBO, as well as newer options such as Hulu and Netflix. As for the family's 46-inch HDTV at their Seattle area home, "I watch it when (they) are asleep for items I can't watch on my iPad," says Comes, 37.
Internet video is changing the face of prime time. Online junkies are no longer turning to cyberspace just to watch cute clips of kids, pets and movie trailers on YouTube.
New research made available exclusively to USA TODAY shows how consumers are using tablets, smartphones, game consoles — and, yes, Internet-connected televisions — to devour live sports, network TV and cable fare. And most of this is happening during the same prime-time hours that were dominated decades ago by the major networks' over-the-air TV broadcasts.
Meet the new prime time. Same as the old prime time. What is changing is that smaller screens on mobile devices are being used at home more than ever expected. And, surprisingly, people are watching longer and longer videos on their mobile devices, even the smallest screens.
This new cyber audience that has grown up with on-demand video and DVR time-shifting scorns appointment TV in favor of a user-generated viewing experience in which they are in control. "People are consuming their content at the time they prefer, on the devices they prefer and increasingly in the context they prefer," says Jay Fulcher, CEO of Ooyala, the video management company for networks, broadcasters and content providers that shared its user consumption data with USA TODAY.
The newfangled prime time extends beyond weeknights. To the digital viewer, Saturday night is increasingly a prime viewing time. Those watching aren't necessarily glued to the 50-inch television in the living room, and if they are, they still often peek at the tablet on their lap.
Video viewing on tablets rises in the morning, tails off midday, then surges again in the evening, according to first-quarter data compiled by Ooyala. On a typical weekday, one-third of tablet video-watching occurs from 7 to 11 p.m., with only about 17% of computer video viewing taking place at that time.
Viewers on connected TVs watch nearly one-third more video from 4 to 11 p.m. on Saturdays than on a typical weekday evening. Ooyala's takeaway: Programmers should remember this when they plan content and monetization strategies.
Whenever and wherever you are
ESPN is among the more than 1,000 global clients that rely on Ooyala to help power their online video, and it takes the findings to heart. If you already subscribe to ESPN through the likes of Time Warner, Comcast, Verizon or Bright House Networks, you can take advantage of the free Watch ESPN app on an iPad to watch the network's sports programming on the go.
"The way we look at this is about trying to serve sports fans whenever and wherever they are," says Damon Phillips, who heads ESPN's digital/Web video content strategies and product development. To Phillips, that means delivering programming, often live sporting events, to the "best available screen."