The great untethering is well underway as we have doubled our use of broadband at home over devices in just the last month. According to broadband services provider Sandvine, only 9% of in-home Internet traffic went to mobile WiFi devices last year, but that shot up to 20% this year.
“We predict from this data that 2013 will be the year long-form video will make its move onto mobile networks,” states Sandvine CEO David Caputo. Even off of WiFi networks, Caputo says that services like Netflix are seeing a doubling of use on cellular networks in North America. “Users are getting comfortable with watching longer-form videos on their handheld devices.”
To be sure, when relying on mobile networks, users are favoring shorter-form videos -- especially YouTube, which accounts for 27.33% of downstream video on mobile networks. HTTP sources get 19.16%, while Facebook is responsible for 8.67%. But Netflix had been responsible for about 2% of video traffic on mobile nets last year, compared to nearly 4% this year.
Actually, whether viewers are embracing “longer-form” videos on devices may be the less interesting question. More important may be how cross-screen video consumption affects the formats, structures and aesthetics of half-hour and hour-long programming. Once we begin to get a good flow of analytics about how longer-form really is being consumed on smaller screens, we may well see changes in the modes of production. In the same way that commercial pods and remote controls altered the aesthetics of TV drama and comedy over the years, the patterns of multiscreen consumption surely must have their effect.
I also don’t think we are anywhere near to understanding exactly how people tend to make choices on their devices about what to watch and what kind of video viewing mode they fall into. Personally, after using all of the major video services on tablets and smartphones, I find that all of them still make me work harder than I should to binge on videos long and short. It is not just that the personalization engines are not up to it yet. It is also that many of these video players force me to move back and forth and in and out of videos to find the stuff that will truly engage me.
I think a lot of video "snacking" involves testing and sampling -- and not knowing what you want to watch until something grabs you. And I haven’t seen the video platform that engages us quite well enough yet.