1 in 5 U.S. consumers connects TV to the Internet, study says

The number of people who connect their televisions to the Internet is growing rapidly, with 1 of 5 consumers now using video game consoles, Blu-ray players or other devices to bring the Web to their TV screens, according to a new national study by Frank N. Magid Associates.

The research found that 21% of consumers in the U.S. connect their TVs to the Internet — up from 16% a year earlier. That number is likely to rise, with 30% of consumers who haven’t already connected expressing an interest in doing so, Magid found in its nationally representative survey of 2,540 people.

“Over the next 18 months, we are going to be at the end of the early adopter phase of connected televisions as the mainstreaming of the technology happens,” said Magid researcher Andrew Hare. “More and more Americans are getting connected televisions in their homes.”

Game consoles led the transition, as gamers used their Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation or Nintendo Wii systems to browse the Web, watch movies and TV shows through subscription services such as Netflix, play games against online opponents or check their Facebook accounts.

Such behavior is quickly moving beyond the technologically adventurous to everyday consumers. The number of connected TVs in homes could jump 50% annually over the next couple of years, Magid predicts.

Mike Vorhaus, president of Magid Advisors, a media research and consulting unit of Frank N. Magid Associates, said such strong consumer sentiment will spur sales of “smart TVs” with built-in technology for connecting to home networks, such as those already available from manufacturers Samsung, Sony and LG.

When twice as many people watch entertainment delivered by the Internet to the TV screen as do now, they’ll be less dependent on pay-TV services, Vorhaus said.

That could signal major disruptions ahead for the way entertainment reaches the home, Vorhaus noted, raising the possibility that cable or satellite subscribers will one day cancel their services in favor of Internet-delivered video.