Cable operators looking for ways to boost modem penetration might want to focus on upscale neighborhoods, as well as on homes where TVs and PCs are in the same room, according to a recent survey of broadband usage.
In its latest broadband survey, Leichtman Research Group determined that 28 percent of U.S. households with incomes greater than $100,000 have broadband Internet access at home, and another 37 percent of homes in that bracket are interested in getting broadband.
Broadband penetration in the $75,000 to $100,000 bracket was 17 percent, with another 30 percent of respondents stating their interest.
But the LRG survey also painted a clear picture of "haves" and "have-nots," with even narrowband penetration severely lagging among lower-income groups.
Only 4 percent of households with incomes less than $35,000 had broadband access, and 70 percent of homes in that group had no Internet access at all.
Half the homes in the $35,000 to $50,000-per-year income bracket — considered middle-class in this country — were not online, and only 11 percent of those respondents said they had broadband service.
"A pronounced gap still exists in the United States along economic lines, where the majority of lower-income American households are still not online," said LRG president Bruce Leichtman.
One appliance those lower-income homes do have is a television set. A separate survey from ComScore Networks — which owns Media Metrix — finds that nearly half of Americans, or 45 million households, have a TV and PC in the same room.
Of that group, 47 percent said they frequently use the Internet as they watch television, while another 29 percent reported occasional use.
The research appears to bolster the case for linking online content to linear TV programming. Since the Internet bubble burst, many Web sites created by cable-programming networks have been brought into close alignment with what's on TV.
"The opportunity to deliver integrated programming and promotions is clearer than ever," said ComScore Media Metrix division president Peter Daboll in a statement.
But television-related online content isn't getting many hits, even while consumers watch TV. The survey found only 15 percent of the people visited a Web site relating to the TV show they were watching.
Some 11 percent of respondents said they were chatting online and sending electronic-mail messages while watching. Another 11 percent were searching for TV listings or reviews. And 10 percent said they research or browse for products while watching TV.
"The prevailing understanding of how the Internet can interact with TV is misguided and needs to catch up to the reality revealed by the data," Daboll said. "While the early fears of the Internet were that it would steer people away from primetime viewing, the real threat to TV is that the Internet is steering away viewers' attention while they are watching TV and surfing the 'Net simultaneously."
Daboll said advertisers need to understand that viewers are dividing their attention between two media. Many viewers focus on Web sites during commercial breaks or less compelling programming.
"TV programmers need to understand they are competing against the Internet for viewers' attention, and that efforts to extend the TV experience online in some instances could run counter to the way people are using the two platforms in the first place," he added.