NEW YORK: More than 70% of Americans watch online video in a typical month, with viral distribution one of the key factors in drawing web users' attention to this material, a study by Lightspeed Research and Trendstream has found.

Creating engaging viral video content has become one of the core aims of many advertisers seeking to boost their presence online, with companies from Burger King to Cadbury among the most successful examples thus far.

According to research undertaken by Lightspeed and Trendstream, 97 million US consumers played back an online video clip in January this year, a viewing figure they argue rivals that of any of the major TV broadcast networks.

Over 80% of all web users aged between 16 and 17 years old watched such content in the first month of this year, compared with 65% of their counterparts in the 55–64 year old age range.

Furthermore, more than half of the younger age group "shared" this content with their peers, a figure falling to 29% among 55–64 year olds.

YouTube, the online video-sharing portal owned by Google, was the most popular tool via which to access online video, and was used by 68% of Lightspeed Research's panel. 

Content or links to video received by email was the next most popular tool by which to do so, and was utilised by around 35% of netizens.

Just under half of all Americans had forwarded links to web-based video content via email, with 72% of this group sending this information on to between one and three people, and 11% to at least six.

By contrast, 22.6% of participants had uploaded video to a social networking portal, and web users also stated that they paid more attention to video clips forwarded from friends than when they received this information via other means. 

In evidence of this, links to clips that were sent to consumers from their friends scored an attention rating of 5.54 out of ten, compared with a total of just 3.64 for advertising videos, the lowest engagement score for any viral content.

Tom Smith, managing director of Trendstream, argued that online video has "reached a real watershed", with consumers now expecting to engage in "both the creation and sharing of material."

Data sourced from Brand Republic; additional content by WARC staff