In a strong early sign that Internet video services can be meshed well with traditional pay-TV services, YouTube is proving to be a big hit with cable subscribers in Hungary.
UPC Hungary, a unit of Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY), announced Thursday that its cable subscribers have been flocking to YouTube since the cable company introduced apps for YouTube and 20 other online video services on some of its set-tops in May. About half of UPC Hungary's pilot HD subs have accessed the service so far and more than half of those have returned for more.
Due to this strong subscriber interest, UPC Hungary video customers are aIready logging more than 1 million viewing minutes of YouTube each day. Plus, the average viewing time is 45 minutes, which is rather lengthy for online video services.
Moreover, the YouTube app seems to be meshing with the traditional linear TV fare that UPC Hungary offers, at least so far. YouTube usage rises steadily during the day as more subs turn on their sets but then drops sharply during linear TV's primetime viewing hours. This indicates that subscribers are incorporating YouTube into their normal TV viewing patterns, not switching out of their usual favorite shows.
"The high level of repeat visitors suggests that interest in YouTube on the television is high among UPC Hungary subscribers," writes Arpad Jordan, CTO of UPC's Central 8 Eastern European region, in a fresh blog post on the subject. "The constant level of viewership during traditionally lower daytime TV viewing hours, together with unpublished usage and engagement numbers, indicates that YouTube is increasing a broad cross-section of subscribers." And, he adds, "the synergies between YouTube's peak viewing hours and primetime linear viewing show that our viewers are seeing YouTube as an added value that complements well the existing linear or on-demand content."
As a result, UPC Hungary plans to roll out YouTube and other online video content to all digital cable households by the end of the year. The company did not disclose how many households can now access the Internet video apps, which are delivered to cable set-tops via ActiveVideo 's cloud-based distribution platform, CloudTV StreamCast. (See HBO Braces to Battle Netflix in Europe.)
In the blog, Jordan said UPC will be looking to see how initial viewing patterns shift over time, what effect increased marketing will have on customer behavior and how the inclusion of YouTube as a channel in its TV guide might affect viewer activity. But for now, Jordan said, "we'll be happy with the answers we've already received."
— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading