Consumers demand free online content

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Consumers demand free online content

Users are demanding more rich media as they access increasing amounts of digital content on a range of devices, but research shows that they are still reluctant to pay for the content.

The third annual Convergence Consumer Survey from business law firm Olswang revealed that consumers are willing to tolerate online ads which they would normally try to avoid in order to secure free content.

Over 30 per cent of respondents are streaming or downloading movie and TV content on a monthly basis.

Even greater numbers are watching a range of free content on websites such as YouTube, as well as accessing streaming music and podcasts.

However, users are far less willing to pay for audiovisual content. Free content is being consumed by around three times as many people as paid content, and those not yet consuming are around three times more interested in free content.

While 84 per cent of respondents found online adverts 'intrusive', and 75 per cent claim actively to avoid pop up adverts, consumers are prepared to suppress this antipathy in their quest for free content.

"True convergence is starting to take hold in UK households as more people network their devices to share content in the home and on the move," said Matthew Phillips, a media, communications and technology partner at Olswang.

"This has intensified the demand for free content, as consumers want a full range of content for these devices but are unwilling to pay for it.

"New challenges are facing broadcasters, rights holders and service providers which are keen to target these consumers but need to overcome the issue of reluctance to pay."

Advertising is likely to become the natural alternative as companies battle to attract an audience willing to accept adverts with their content, as long as the content is free.

However, the challenge is ensuring that consumers keep on the right side of the law as they begin to download more and more material and use it on an ever-increasing range of devices.

The lion's share of current regular viewing is free content from user-generated sites, along with TV clips and movie trailers.

But the research found that nearly one in seven respondents download or stream free TV programmes to keep, and even more consumers download or stream free programmes for a limited time.

Even though advertising spend in online media is at an all time high and growing fast, 84 per cent of respondents find online adverts annoying when it intrudes on their activities.

But despite this dislike of online advertising, 44 per cent of respondents with computers at home are happy to have some adverts included at the beginning of a programme if it meant that the content could be free.

This indicates that consumers are open to different business model propositions, and that companies need to consider alternatives to direct consumer payments, according to the report.

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