The coveted 18- to 34-year-old demographic is de-coupling from the traditional TV set experience, preferring instead to catch their favorite entertainment content on their PCs and mobiles.

At least that's the finding of a recent study by Magid Advisors on the shifting video behavioral habits of that group and the U.S. as a whole.

The findings suggest that with the influx of online content and a mobile-conscious mentality, 18- to 34-year-olds are moving toward the online experience, and not just for traditional TV and movie content.

"We found that 18- to 34-year-olds are using PCs like older viewers use TV. The attitude among younger consumers has changed. Today, more than 20 percent of online Internet video users are watching TV or movies regularly on the Internet," said Mike Vorhaus, president of Magid Advisors, a unit of consumer research firm Frank N. Magid Associates.

Though much of the study revealed few surprises, Vorhaus admitted, there was one number that jumped. "Males 18 to 34 years old spent seven hours a week watching online video. That's 45 percent more than the rest of the country. That is a very online-centric group for content."

Vorhaus was quick to point out, however, that there is no link between the increase in online video consumption and the cannibalization of TV content. "No one is saying people are watching more hours of online video than TV. There are just more choices, and there is a major shift from TV as the one-and-only source of video. It shouldn't surprise us that people are using those choices."

Bruce Leichtman, president of the research firm LRG, cautions against a potentially over-hyped Internet video "surge."

"My data does not concur at all that 18- to 34-year-olds are spending more time watching online video than watching TV. While they spend 2.5 hours per day online, that's all time online, not just watching online video."

Some of the more relevant findings in the study include:

  • 57 percent of Internet users watch online videos weekly.
  • 66 percent of online video viewers regularly watch short-form content.
  • Emerging technologies are showing promise when connecting with entertainment and video content; about 30 percent of online viewers watch content on a mobile phone, interconnected TV or wireless tablet.
  • About 158 million U.S. Internet users will download or stream video at least monthly via any device in 2011.
  • 25 percent of online video viewers access the Internet through their TVs, and 34 percent are interested in hooking in at a later time.

These numbers are resonating with cable companies. And they'd better. Particularly with the growing appeal of online advertising and the proliferation of mobile devices.

Cox Communications, for instance, reflects a shift by major cable operators toward a more multichannel business model that embraces online video, most notably through its Cox TV Online added value offering.

"We continue adding authenticated content and support access to TV and video online through our partners and devices like iPad, iPhone, Android and others. We've done lots of consumer behavior research and understand how they view content. We want to merge with that and are embracing long-form content viewing online," said Mark Gathen, director of video product management at Cox.

And just how is this shift to mobile devices and PCs likely to affect traditional pay-TV viewing? Concluded Gathen: "We haven't seen a shift to watching more content on alternative paths, but it's hard to see what the future holds."

For the immediate future, you can bet there'll be more content over more devices with more people watching.

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