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AccuStream Report Reveals Strong Growth in 2004

In late January, AccuStream iMedia Research released its report on streaming media usage in 2004 entitled "Streaming Media 2004-2007: Market Development and User Data Analysis." In this report, AccuStream research director Paul Palumbo found that streaming enjoyed growth of 80% in the total number of video streams served in 2004.

Of course, double-digit growth is nothing new for streaming. "Even through the dot-com bust, there was no skip in terms of audience acceptance of [streaming]," says Palumbo, "except for growth being artificially limited because a lot of [streaming content] went behind subscription walls." Palumbo’s been reporting on streaming media usage since 1998, although under the auspices of AccuStream only since its formation in 2001. "When the market woke up from the Internet whimper and came out of hibernation, they looked at the numbers and they were up big," he says. "Some companies were ready to pull the plug after the dot-com bomb, but usage never tapered off. The growth has been all audience-driven."

And what’s driving much of that audience to increase its streaming consumption in recent years has been broadband penetration. "Broadband users consume more of the Internet," says Palumbo. In 2004, broadband users consumed on average 14 streams per month with an average clip length of 2.5 minutes. But streaming also has seen growth through narrowband channels as well, albeit at a slower rate and more because of a single company (AOL) than an overall trend. "AOL still serves up a lot of narrowband content," says Palumbo. "That’s one of the ways that narrowband streaming usage has continued to grow even though it’s declining as a percentage of streaming." Palumbo also credits Internet radio with streaming’s continued growth. "Internet radio is just a really popular streaming format," he says. "It had a couple of years that it declined in growth, but that had to do with unresolved rights issues, which have since been cleared away." Audio streams grew by 75% in 2004.

But what may be contributing to growth—as well as streaming’s transition into a mainstream media channel—most of all is content providers’ savvy at getting their audience to keep watching. "In the TV business, you try to flow audiences from one show to the next," explains Palumbo. "Now you have sites like AOL and Yahoo! that are experts at directing audiences to high-value content." Sites like these often queue up additional videos which just keep on playing after a user finishes with the first clip. This, in essence, makes streaming "more modular and more TV-like," says Palumbo. "The medium isn’t always ‘lean forward;’ you can click on it and ‘lean back.’"

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