Commentary

Mobile Video Audience Still Small But Building

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As 2010 draws to a close, mobile TV remains more an early-adopter niche than anything remotely resembling a mainstream medium. A Yankee Group report spotlighted in MoBlog yesterday making predictions about 4G said mobile video won't be a factor in driving consumers to sign up for next-generation service. Mobile apps and Web browsing will dominate 4G network use.

The demise of mobile TV service FLO TV earlier this year after significant investments and heavy promotion by Qualcomm because of weak demand also doesn't bode well for the segment, especially for paid mobile video. Other mobile TV efforts -- such as the broadcaster-backed Open Mobile Video Coalition and Mobile Content Venture, composed of a dozen TV station groups -- are still laying the groundwork for expanding programming to portable devices.

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That said, mobile video maintains a small but growing, and dedicated, audience. The number of mobile video viewers has grown 43% to nearly 22 million as of the second quarter, from 15.2 million in the year- earlier period, according to the latest data from Nielsen. That amounts to about 10% of the estimated 220.5 million U.S. mobile users 13 and older accessing video through any means including the Web, subscription-based services, downloads and apps.

The average time spent per month increased 11% to three hours and 37 minutes, up from 3:15 a year ago. That averages out to about 6.5 minutes a day.

Not surprisingly, mobile TV watching skews younger. Teens (13 to 17) clocked in with the highest monthly mobile viewing average at 7:13, followed college-age users (18 to 24) at 4:20, and those 25 to 37, who were just over the average, at 3:37.

The bulk of the mobile video audience (55%), however, falls in the 25- to 49-year-old demographic. That roughly corresponds to the largest smartphone-owning segment. Teens make up only 18% of viewers. When it comes to gender, 55% of mobile video users are men and 45% women. That split also roughly matches smartphone ownership by gender, suggesting viewing is being done mostly on more advanced phones.

Nielsen estimates nearly 30% of U.S. mobile users own smartphones, and projects that the share of smartphone will overtake that of regular mobile phones by late 2011. Even if that prediction turns out to be overly aggressive, the upward trend for smartphone adoption is one that can only benefit the growth of mobile video.

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