Online Video Streaming Reaches Into Rural Markets

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Those purveyors of numbers and panel research, comScore, have another report, this time showing how regional ISPs are boosting bandwidth in rural markets. So that means when people aren’t out tilling the fields, they’re in the house online? It would seem so. The growth numbers are astounding actually. Many regional ISPs are seeing sustained double digit growth and it seems the down-home folks are scoring a major win in their local markets.

Perhaps it stems from a fear of large corporations or the fact that the regionals actually know who and where their potential clients are.

“The recent announcement of the government’s national broadband plan demonstrates the increasing importance of broadband expansion as a country-wide initiative, with rural areas playing an important role in this expansion,” said Brian Jurutka, comScore senior vice president. “Although rural markets have witnessed significant increases in broadband penetration during the past few years, these areas still lag behind the penetration rates of metropolitan areas. As the primary drivers of rural broadband growth, regional ISPs have the opportunity to increase their market share by delivering broadband to the millions of households still relying on dial-up services.”

Regional ISPs are leading the charge into the rural areas and bandwith usage is soaring thanks to “bandwidth-intense activities like video streaming and peer-to-peer sharing,” according to the research. See! Even simple folk (simple as in life, not in the head) like a good viral video now and then it would seem. Plus, some rural areas probably have horrible TV reception and so they can stay up to date on what those Desperate Housewives are up to thanks to online video.

Broadband penetration in rural markets reached 81 percent in Q4 2009, representing a sizeable increase of 13 percentage points in the past year alone.

Broadband Penetration* for Rural Markets**
Q4 2009 vs. Q4 2008
Total U.S.
Source: comScore, Inc.
Q4 2008Q4 2009Point Change Q4 2009 vs. Q4 2008
Rural Markets68%81%13

*Number of homes with broadband as percent of all homes with an Internet connection
**Rural markets defined as having a population less than 10,000

One regional ISP in Maine, TDS Telecom, even boasts a whopping triple-digit percentage change Q1 to Q4 2009, 101%. That’s pretty massive and I would have thought what with all those vacation homes for the rich and politically active, that they would all have had Internet already. But I guess I was wrong. Meanwhile in Montana Windstream Communications recorded a 57-percent gain. Frontier Communications led as the fastest-growing ISP in Nebraska (up 28 percent), Idaho (up 27 percent) and Alabama (up 26 percent).

Fastest Growing ISPs in Select Rural States

Percentage Increase in Number of Broadband Households

Q4 2009 vs. Q1 2009
Source: comScore, Inc.

StateFastest Growing ISPPercent Change Q4 2009 vs. Q1 2009
MaineTDS Telecom101%
MontanaWindstream Communications57%
NebraskaFrontier Communications28%
IdahoFrontier Communications27%
AlabamaFrontier Communications26%

Regional Players Lead Markets in Rural States

Regional service providers GCI and Bresnan Communications ranked as the leading service providers in the country’s three most rural markets (based on population density). GCI captured 61 percent of the broadband market in Alaska during Q4 2009, while Bresnan Communications reached 56 percent share in Wyoming and 52 percent share in Montana.

Broadband Market Share Leader in Rural States
Leading ISPs in Rural States
Source: comScore, Inc.
StateLeading ISPQ4’09 Broadband Market Share
WyomingBresnan Communications56%
MontanaBresnan Communications52%

Mr. Jurutka continued,

“Often major ISPs need to focus their strategic operations in their largest and most profitable markets, which gives smaller regional providers the opportunity to establish strongholds in more rural areas while playing a key role in national broadband expansion.”

So that 80% of people online watching video seems to include those living in less-populated and less-developed areas as well. Having come from Milwaukee, from where you can drive 30 minutes or so and be in a rural area, it’s no surprise that inhabitants of those areas are turning to broadband for a variety of things. I can certainly see how they would want it for online video. Often, the only options for entertainment in those areas are shitty TV reception or satellite. Both of which are highly susceptible to local weather conditions. With a more stable connection like cable and/or landline-based broadband you have a better chance of catching up on all the latest episodes and finding the coolest viral videos featuring farm animals.

Now I wonder if comScore will start segmenting online video usages into urban vs. rural so we can find out just who is watching what, where and when. That might make for some interesting research and could certainly have some very good information for certain industries in regards to their ad space and marketing campaigns.

If it turns out that a vast majority of rural areas are consuming a lot of video then think of the potential for highly targeted ad campaigns for things like John Deere and Monsanto products. What? You don’t know what they make? Well, then you’re not in their target demographic now are you?

Note: I am in no way being disrespectful to the families that choose to live in less-populated areas. While I’m a city-boy at heart, I have a fondness for the farm as one of my uncles owned one when I was young and I often spent summers baling hay, mending fences, sowing, tilling and harvesting. It’s actually quite cool that they are also into the whole ‘online thing’ and it just goes to show that they’re not as simple as people might think. Way to knock those stereotypes square in the nose!

Image credit: Flickr


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