Real-time entertainment traffic dominates the Web now; and over half of it happens on devices other than a PC or laptop computer. This according to a new report by research company Sandvine. The report states that "by volume, 55% of Real-Time Entertainment traffic is destined for the television (either directly to a smart TV or via an intermediary like a game console or set-top device), a mobile device or tablet." Those statistics, along with data from Mary Meeker's Web 2.0 Summit presentation last week, emphasize just how far we've come in the post-PC era.

Of the non-computer traffic, much of it comes from Netflix (on TVs), Facebook and YouTube (both mostly on mobile devices).

Real-Time Entertainment is defined in the report as "applications and protocols that allow "on-demand" entertainment that is consumed (viewed or heard) as it arrives." Examples given include Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Spotify, Rdio, Pandora and Slingbox.

Looking first at overall traffic - which includes both computers and other devices - real-time entertainment accounts for 60% of peak downstream Internet traffic in North America. There's been a steady increase in this figure over the past few years. It was 50% in Sandvine's March 2011 report, 42% in 2010 and just under 30% in 2009.

Netflix alone accounts for 32.7% of total peak downstream traffic in Sandvine's latest report, a relative increase of more than 10% since U.S. spring. YouTube accounts for 11.3% of peak traffic.

Post-PC Habits

The report notes that people are watching real-time entertainment on an increasing number of screens - including smartphones, tablets and "a TV with direct (smart TVs) or indirect (via a game console or set-top) Internet connectivity."

Interestingly, the report states that when people watch online video, "they generally choose to watch content on the largest screen available to them." So they will choose a TV over a computer, a tablet over a smartphone, and a smartphone over nothing at all. What's more, screen size has direct correlation to data usage:

"For example, when watching a video on a 60-inch HD capable plasma screen, most subscribers will opt for the highest video fidelity available. In that same scenario, higher- quality audio might also be provided to the home theatre system."

What's behind the increase of consumption of real-time entertainment on devices other than computers? Sandvine claims it is mainly due to game consoles, "through manufacturers partnering with content producers." As an example, it cites this month's announcement by Microsoft of "a massive expansion in the list of content providers that will be available on the Xbox 360, including such heavyweights as Bravo, Comcast, HBO, BBC, Telefonica, Rogers on Demand and Televisa."

Mobile Devices

Looking specifically at mobile devices (which effectively means smartphones), Sandvine reports that real-time entertainment generates 30.8% of peak demand on mobile. Web browsing is next, on 27.3%, while social networking is 20.0%. Most of the latter comes from Facebook, which represents 19.3% of peak mobile traffic. YouTube gets 18.2%.

These statistics correlate with other data that we've been hearing. For instance, in September Google announced that mobile devices are responsible for 10% of all YouTube downloads. Mary Meeker's Web 2.0 Summit presentation attributed 33% of Facebook traffic to mobile devices. Meeker also pointed to Pandora and Twitter, which have 60% and 55% respectively of their traffic going to mobile devices.


Slide from Mary Meeker's 2011 report

These statistics from Sandvine, backed up by Mary Meeker's data, clearly show that devices other than computers are not only having a big impact on consumption of real-time entertainment - they're now the primary way to consume such content.

Let us know in the comments about your own usage patterns for consuming real-time entertainment on the Web. Are you finding that most of that is through a connected TV, mobile device or tablet?