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Net to be whupped by TV in attention battle

Rumours of TV's demise may have been greatly exaggerated

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Growth in TV watching will outpace internet for years to come, according to figures released yesterday. It means the pot of gold lusted after by internet video disciples will remain out of reach, if it exists at all.

It's estimated that telly watching will grow by two hours per week by 2012, while internet use outside work will crawl up by just 30 minutes, Reuters reports.

Analyst house Bain and Co. reckons web video cheerleaders, who predict that eyeballs and advertisers will flee the idiot box in droves, are set for a major disappointment.

Bebo and other websites are courting professional film and TV firms on under the assumption that telly has had its day and the kids aren't interested any more. Many TV executive subscribe to this scenario, and are cutting deals to flog shows all over the place. On Bain's evidence, they might do well to be more selective.

Bain's media practice chief David Sanderson said: "People are spending time watching YouTube videos, but the amount of time they're spending is... almost negligible relative to the time they're spending watching professionally generated television."

The fuss over user generated content whipped up by the emergence of YouTube a couple of years ago has died down. None of the myriad copycat sites have broken into the mainstream, so it seems likely that for clips of lip-synching and cats falling down stairs, there's only going to be one show in town.

Recent reports indicate that, although we've all heard it before, video could be the application that pushes the current internet infrastructure to breaking point.

Sanderson said: "There are capacity constraints, the technology isn't quite there... and [neither] frankly the business models for the content owners. All of that still needs to be worked out."

In the US, Comcast's decision to control the amount of video-heavy BitTorrent traffic it carries so that other internet services can continue to operate stands as evidence of the capacity crunch.

On this side of the pond, however, the communications regulator Ofcom has been talking up the internet as the medium to end all media. ®

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