NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

"Lost" on the Web: Does Web Distribution Stimulate or Depress Television Viewing?

Joel Waldfogel

NBER Working Paper No. 13497
Issued in October 2007
NBER Program(s):   IO

In the past few years, YouTube and other sites for sharing video files over the Internet have vaulted from obscurity to places of centrality in the media landscape. The files available at YouTube include a mix of user-generated video and clips from network television shows. Networks fear that availability of their clips on YouTube will depress television viewing. But unauthorized clips are also free advertising for television shows. As YouTube has grown quickly, major networks have responded by making their content available at their own sites. This paper examines the effects of authorized and unauthorized web distribution on television viewing between 2005 and 2007 using a survey of Penn students on their tendencies to watch television series on television as well as on the web. The results provide a glimpse of the way young, Internet-connected people use YouTube and related sites. While I find some evidence of substitution of web viewing for conventional television viewing, time spent viewing programming on the web -- 4 hours per week -- far exceeds the reduction in weekly traditional television viewing of about 25 minutes. Overall time spent on network-controlled viewing (television plus network websites) increased by 1.5 hours per week.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w13497

Published: Waldfogel, Joel, 2009. "Lost on the web: Does web distribution stimulate or depress television viewing?," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 158-168, June.

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