Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Kids prefer the Net to TV

The NYTimes publishes a brief bit which says that new research shows that 10-14 year olds who have the internet spend more time there than watching TV.

While I look askance on the source (a marketing group) the finding does match my experience. With my six grandkids in Lafayette I think it is true that the grands spend more time on the net than watching the TV and I don't doubt that this is widely true.

There are always caveats of course and here are several: 1) The household has to have internet. 2) The kids have to have as ready access to a computer as the do to the TV. —In our households that's the parent's (or grand-parent's) cast-offs. 3) The distinction, for kids, between TV, and internet, and video gaming is not as clear as it is for their parents so saying that kids are "on the net" might be misleading.

That last point—that kids don't make the same distinctions that we do is worth exploring a bit. Video game consoles are connected to TV's. So the "TV" can be used to play games--including, in one household, networked games through the video game console. Or a very similar game can be played on the computer over the network. And the cartoon network is very popular on the computer screen where, once you are into the show, the experience is little different from watching the TV--you can pause it but then in these households the kids have grown up with the understanding that you can pause and record TV on the DVR.

So saying "For children ages 10 to 14 who use the Internet, the computer is a bigger draw than the TV set," as the article notes, does not necessarily mean what it means to adults. Still, the article is basically correct: though kids might not think of all these activities as "internet" they are, in fact, only possible over a good networked connection.

But that probably should be the deeper point. The triple play package the LUS will soon be offering here in Lafayette will be strong on all counts—cable, phone, and internet. But it will be untouchable on the internet side. And all action is shifting to the internet side. Kids are simply the leading edge on this. As the distinctions blur between internet, phone, and TV all the power shifts to the internet and internet-enabled entertainment and interactions.

For LUSFiber that will be a key advantage. Their emphasis should be on shifting this community's usage in that direction as fast as is possible for that is where the future competitive advantage of the network lies. Right now the cash cow is cable—and that will help pay of the network in the crucial first years—but those 14 year olds will exiting high school and setting up their own households shortly after the network build-out here is finished. Those customers will be all about the internet...as far as they will be concerned "the phone" will mean VOIP and wireless, "the TV" will be an adjunct to the video they download and will be used in roughly the same way (started and stopped on their command and watched on the most convenient screen). Gaming will a huge part of their entertainment life and a fast local network over which to play with friends will be something that young households will value at least as much as ESPN.

The future is not only coming but is here...take a look at your family's pre-teens...and it is going to be dominant far faster than we thought 3 years ago. LUS is standing in the right place to enable that transition easily, cheaply, and smoothly for our community; let's hope it sees the opportunity and gets ahead of the curve. Moving fast on this can be the way to realize the dream of making the network a real utility--ubiquitous and necessary for all.

No comments: