Microsoft, in a new report about Internet usage in Europe, predicts that the Internet will overtake TV as the most consumed form of media in Europe by the middle of next year. Broadband connections in Europe have grown by 95% in the last five years and the average European now spends about 8.9 hours per week online. Microsoft also predicts that over the next 5 years, usage patterns will shift away from traditional PCs to other web enabled devices like game consoles, IPTV, and mobile phones.

Online Penetration in Europe

There is still a clear North/South divide when it comes to Internet penetration levels in Europe. While all the Scandinavian countries and the Netherlands are highly connected, with penetration rates over 80%, countries in Southern Europe like Greece, Turkey, or Portugal hover around 40%.

Microsoft, however, expects that this will slowly change, as Internet usage continues to grow in Southern Europe, and as the Northern countries reach their saturation levels.

Broadband connections in Europe represent about 83% of all Internet connections, which is far ahead of the U.S., where broadband only accounts for about 70% of all connections.

Europe Logs On

Online Video

Microsoft assumes that TV, radio, and newspaper consumption, which has been flat in Europe for the last couple of years, will start a slow decline. Since 2004, Europeans are already spending less time on watching DVDs (-16%) and reading magazines (-6%).

By 2010, Microsoft predicts that Europeans will spend an average of 14.2 per week on the Internet, while they will only sit in front of their TVs for 11.5 hours per week.

Currently, about 9% of Europeans watch live TV on their PCs and 4% record TV programs to a hard drive, either through a dedicated media PC or with a DVR. Microsoft, however, doesn't believe that the TV will be left behind. Instead, the company predicts that the traditional TV will morph into an Internet-enabled device that will offer consumers the ability to watch on-demand videos and connect them to their social networks and other online activities.