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August 13, 2008 11:33 AM

Internet Video Not Just About Short Clips

Anyone who follows the rise of online video has long been given the impression that video on the Internet is all about short clips. If a video's more than a few minutes long, no one will watch it, and therefore all content must be cut up into bite-sized pieces for easier consumption.

But in the last couple of days I've learned just how far this reality has shifted.

First I was speaking with JumpTV and learned that their viewers average almost an hour and a half watching sports video from around the world.

Then today I just got off the phone with ESPN360 and was blown away when I heard that they're seeing average viewing times of three hours.

On one level these numbers aren't surprising as the content these sites deliver are full-length sporting events that almost always last multiple hours, or in the case of a sport like cricket even multiple days.

But on another level, it's remarkable to think that there are many people who are now sitting in front of their computer to watch video for hours at a time.

Of course, I am one of those people. Since giving up my cable subscription, I've been known to dive into Hulu to watch a whole string of TV episodes or even a full-length movie.

So long as there's sufficient connectivity, watching online video can provide a compelling experience even over longer periods of time. In fact, I'm finding myself gravitating towards sites where I sit back and watch longer form video rather than having to hunt and peck through sites with an endless library of short form clips.

And as there become more and more ways of getting Internet video to the TV, this trend should only continue to accelerate.

What's important about all this is that when people talk about how the growing demand for video is increasing demand for bandwidth, there are two primary variables in that equation: the quality and the length of the video.

The quality of video that can be delivered will be limited for quite some time by bandwidth, storage, and processing power constraints, but the length of video is a variable that will continue to increase so long as there's sufficient connectivity to deliver a positive viewing experience and there's longer form content available to watch.

Sites like JumpTV and ESPN360 are proving this to be the case, so when we talk about the growing demand for bandwidth that's being driven by online video, we should remember that it's not just about funny clips on YouTube and HD video on ABC.com, it's also about users finding opportunities to sit down for extended sessions that can span not just minutes but hours watching video online.

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