Mobile Video - How Long Until Prime Time?

Though the growth of mobile video has been enthusiastically discussed for several years, relative to TV, it still – inevitably – remains small beer.

Whereas, the vast majority of the population watches some amount of TV everyday – often hours of it – mobile video is still at the stage where short clips and less frequent usage dominates the medium.

But what’s more interesting than where we are now, is the rate at which things are changing.

Over the last 12 months, the use of both smartphones and tablets for video consumption has taken on a rather different turn, which bodes well for the future. It suggests an acceleration of both overall use and — perhaps more importantly — the use of these devices for viewing long-form content.

Research by Frank N. Magid Associates has found that the 44% of smartphone users and 61% of tablet users ,respectively, use their devices to watch video of any kind. Long-form content (TV programs, sports and movies) is viewed by 45% of those smartphone viewers and 71% of those tablet viewers.

But let’s be clear — this isn’t a frequency medium yet.  These numbers refer to viewing that takes place weekly or more often. When matched against TV the numbers, they are still tiny.

But while this clearly doesn’t equate to a seismic threat to the continued dominance of TV as the principal video consumption platform, that’s not really the point. Despite the fact that the industry seems to love drawing direct comparisons between TV and every other medium, even though they may not be directly comparable, mobile media needs to be assessed in a manner that recognizes the differences from TV and the complementarity of the media.

To my mind, what’s more remarkable than the current numbers is the rate of growth in the consumption of long-form content on mobile devices.

Year-on-year, the Magid Media Futures Study, “The Heartbeat of Connected Culture: Smartphones and Tablets,” which has been conducted annually since 2009, shows increases in long-form consumption across smartphone and tablet combined of 92%.

If this rate of growth is maintained at anything approximating that of the last 12 months, the time when consumption of long-form video on mobile devices can be considered mainstream will clearly arrive sooner rather than later.

This is significant for anyone involved in the production and distribution of long-form content for any number of reasons. All are related to the innate capabilities of the smartphones and tablets that video is increasingly viewed upon.

As the long-form mobile audience continues to grow, this means the dotted line between program content and interactivity becomes shorter for larger numbers of the audience.  Likewise for the dotted line between programs and location-based services and social media.

All this means that the marketing and advertising opportunities for brands and programmers alike, but which consumption patterns have thus far limited, will likely become a reality. The result: a more diverse revenue base across different platforms from the same quality content.

Of course, when we reach the point of critical mass, the budgets will be determined by the continued rate of growth — which in itself will be a consequence of the combined efforts of all sides of the TV, mobile, social and marketing ecosystem. When that will be is a factor of the cost of leveraging the opportunity as much as by any consideration for audience size.

My bet is that we could see things get interesting over the next two to three years.






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