Online video sites like Netflix and YouTube may be slowly luring some North American entertainment seekers away from prime-time TV, according to figures from a report by the Waterloo, Ont.-based company Sandvine.
The company analyzes Internet usage and found that 60 per cent of all downloading traffic in North America during the peak period of 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. is tied to what it calls real-time entertainment applications. That percentage is up 10 per cent from in 2010.
The most Internet traffic in prime time was associated with Netflix streams, which accounted for almost a third of all the data consumed in that two-hour window. That figure is up about 10 per cent since the spring. Netflix's data consumption was nearly double the second biggest use of the Internet in prime time, which was basic web browsing.
Sandvine also notes that the majority of video and audio content is no longer being streamed to desktop computers and laptops. About 55 per cent of multimedia transfers were being sent to game consoles, set-top boxes, Internet-connected TVs, tablets and mobile devices.
When analyzing mobile traffic, Sandvine also found that most data usage during prime time was for real-time entertainment. About 30.8 per cent of peak prime-time traffic came from video and audio streaming; the second biggest use of mobile data was for web browsing, representing 27.3 per cent; and social networking traffic was responsible for 20 per cent of downloads.
The most popular real-time entertainment sites include Netflix, YouTube, Hulu, Google Video, MLB.TV and the music streaming sites Spotify and Pandora.
Sandvine says the trend toward masses of consumers streaming high-quality video all at the same time is creating major headaches for Internet service providers and that may eventually translate into higher prices.
The report even suggests that ISPs may eventually consider charging a premium for downloads during prime time, or making it cheaper to consume large amounts of data in off-peak periods.