Viewers now streaming nearly 5 hours of online video per month


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The early days of short, fuzzy, one-off online videos are vanishing into the not-too-distant past.

YouTube’s original 2005-era tiny square video player, which did its level best to bring us thousands of short, low-resolution clips of cats skateboarding and babies talking, or vice versa, is now but a hazy memory. That wild and lawless period of online video has been paved over and lit up by ever larger online movie players, capable of plasma-TV-caliber resolution -- and with all limits on movie length removed.


(See the above clip of a cat skateboarding in high definition.)

Forget those 30-second clips of old. The average online video viewer is now watching 4 hours 38 minutes of video every month, according to the latest numbers from Nielsen, doubling the amount of online video people watched in 2008.

The proliferation of services like Netflix, Apple TV and Hulu Plus are letting more people watch entire movies and long TV episodes over the Internet, either from their PCs, TVs or tablets -- and YouTube itself is betting big on premium programming.

The one wrinkle: Nielsen found that the total number of online viewers in the U.S. -- about 150 million as of August -- was growing at half the speed of the amount of video being watched. Meaning people who are watching online video are watching a lot more than they used to -- but there are still plenty of people who aren’t watching it at all: about half of the U.S. population.

Still, thinking back to the 2005 YouTube, the idea that half the nation would be watching hours of high- definition online video every month would’ve been sillier than a cat playing poker.


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