Continental Research's Convergence Report Spring 2006 states that 2.6 million people in the UK have either downloaded a TV programme or watched it live on the internet, and 900,000 have watched TV via their mobile phone.
The report's authors state that of those who download TV programmes, a significantly large number - 29% - do so at least once a week. The types of programmes that are downloaded most are popular American TV shows such as Lost (the most watched downloaded programme, aided no doubt by the lengthy lag between the US and UK screenings), CSI, Desperate Housewives and The Simpsons.
James Myring, associate director at Continental Research, said: "Given the popularity of downloading first music and now films via the internet, there is every reason to predict that downloading TV will grow rapidly in importance. Watching live TV over the internet remains more occasional, with 19% doing so at least once a week."
The prediction of rapid growth is given credence by the proportions of internet TV viewers likely to increase their viewing to specific services in the next 12 months. 40% say that watching downloaded programmes will increase, and 25% say watching TV live via the internet will increase. As the amount of content grows in quantity and quality it will help further the growth of internet TV.
Flying in the face of industry hype, CR is downbeat about TV to mobile. "Downloading TV programmes via a mobile phone, however, is handicapped by the same constraints that limit mobile internet, namely a small screen size and incomplete content compared to the 'real thing' (i.e. standard TV/ internet)," states a release. "Until these limitations are overcome we don't expect usage of mobile TV to breakthrough into the mass market. There may be significant experimentation, but it is habitual use that will make it commercially viable. It is also worth recalling that miniature TVs never became popular.
Myring concluded that: "If convergence is seen as a competition between platforms then the current front runner is internet access via a PC. The internet has had a huge impact on industries as diverse as travel, music and banking. The telecoms (through VoIP) and broadcast industries are now starting to feel the full impact of the internet."
The full report is available from Continental Research for £400.