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Game console owners increasingly stream video, Nielsen finds

Owners of Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii consoles are increasingly using the devices to access video-on-demand through Netflix and other services, a Nielsen survey finds.

December 15, 2011|By Ben Fritz and Alex Pham, Los Angeles Times
  • Streaming video accounted for 14% of the average time spent on an Xbox 360 in October, up from 10% a year earlier. Above, Microsoft Chief Executive Steve Ballmer speaks at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January.
Streaming video accounted for 14% of the average time spent on an Xbox 360… (Andrew Harrer, Bloomberg )

Video game consoles aren't just for gaming anymore.

Increasingly, people are using their Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Wii devices to stream movies and TV shows, according to a survey released Wednesday by Nielsen Co.

Because all three consoles readily connect to the Internet, viewers can use them to access video-on-demand services like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Major League Baseball Network and ESPN to watch on their TV screens rather than on small computer monitors.

And that seems to be just what consumers are doing. Streaming video accounted for 14% of the average time spent using Microsoft Corp.'s Xbox 360 in October, up from 10% a year earlier, according to a Nielsen survey of 3,000 people.

For Sony Corp.'s PS3, the share of streaming video was 15% this year, up from 9% last year. The shift was even more dramatic for Nintendo Co.'s Wii, which jumped to 33% from 20%.

Xbox and PlayStation users also spent an additional 5% of their time watching movies and television shows they paid to download, an option not available on the Wii.

That's good news for studios looking to make more money through digital distribution. Game consoles, along with the Apple TV, are the most popular ways to reach people who want to watch video on their high-definition televisions.

It's more troubling for television networks seeking to boost their ratings and ad revenue. The new data emphasize that consoles aren't stealing viewers' attention just with video games but also with content that serves as a direct substitute for traditional TV watching.

Game consoles have proved particularly effective for Netflix. An earlier Nielsen survey found that half of the users who utilize its streaming offerings do so on the PlayStation, Xbox or Wii.

Two of the consoles are also popular as DVD players. People spend 15% of their time on PS3s watching DVDs or Blu-ray discs. Sony's device is the only console that plays Blu-ray discs and is the bestselling Blu-ray player on the market. Xbox 360 users spend 9% of their time watching DVDs. The Wii does not play movies on discs.

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