Microsoft's Gates says viewers will abandon broadcast TV

Today's television is "terrible," and within five years the Internet will revolutionize the video medium, said Microsoft chairman Bill Gates.

Two factors will contribute to the change to Internet television: an explosion of online video content and the merging of PCs and TV sets, Gates said.

"I'm stunned how people aren't seeing that with TV, in five years from now, people will laugh at what we've had," the Microsoft executive told business leaders and politicians at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. He also repeated his comments on NBC's "Today" show in New York.

Gates said the rise of broadband Internet connections and the popularity of video sites like Google's YouTube has already led to a worldwide decline in the number of hours spent by young people in front of a TV set.

In the near future, Gates said, an increasing number of viewers will seek the flexibility offered by online video and abandon conventional broadcast television, with its fixed program slots and commercials that interrupt shows.

Gates noted that now, for most viewers, watching video clips on a computer is a different experience than watching sitcoms or documentaries on television. But convergence is coming, he predicted, posing new challenges for TV companies and advertisers.