Commentary

Devices And OTT Lead Video Consumption Growth

The radical personalization of the TV experience continues as viewers embrace alternative routes to the medium that defined the last century. According to Adobe’s metrics of online TV viewing, the number of unique monthly TV Everywhere and online TV viewers was up 146% in the last year alone. The number of authenticated online TV users (TV Everywhere) was up a staggering 388%.

While devices are among the leading sources of this migration from standard distribution methods, over-the-top devices -- including game consoles and streaming media set-top boxes like Apple TV and Roku -- are leading the charge. The World Cup was one of the key drivers of this surge. In addition to the growth in raw viewership, the amount of TV content consumed online per viewer was up 55%. This is a habit now.

As much as devices are an important part of this trend, the early indications are that people want freedom from programming schedules more than they necessarily want freedom from the TV itself. To wit, the largest share of growth in the online TV category went to streaming media boxes and game consoles, which saw a 195% market share increase. Apple’s iOS platform is still the leading destination for online TV content (51%), but Android apps were up 28% to account for 20% of the market. The flight from standard Web browser continues, with that platform’s share dropping 41% to 19% overall.

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When we lean back with TV content, we tend to really lean back. Adobe reports that for the first time movie content exceeded sports content. Movie networks enjoyed a 125% increase in usage. The average viewer is now watching 4.5 movies a month. Episodic content at the TV and cable networks was up 81%. Sports event viewing was up 31% to 4.2 watched per month among its fans.

In another sign that users are becoming more accustomed to lean-back experiences on smartphones, this was the first time that the smaller screens edged out tablets (14% share vs. 13% share). No doubt the growth in screen size and bandwidth is helping to accelerate the trend. Nevertheless, only 17% of the videos watched on smartphones progressed to the 75% mark, while desktop users were three times as likely to get to the three-quarters mark.

So even as video viewing habits migrate to devices, when they aren’t still glued to the TV itself, smaller still means shorter when it comes to attention. It seems to me this should drive video content providers to make our cross-platform experience much more seamless.

I suspect that many of us are indeed accessing more movie and TV content on these smaller screens, but doing so in smaller bites of a meal we finish or started on a larger screen. I am astonished with the number of TV Everywhere apps from major cable companies that do not allow for handing off video queues and drop-in/drop-out points in a video. I don’t get it, really. Most of the cable entities require authentication and so have my login. Why aren’t they tracking my watch lists and video progress as table stakes? And by the way, this is also true of short-clip video apps.

I would also like to see more granular research on video triaging. Are many of us using mobile-to-screen videos for later consumption we expect will take place on other screens? The metrics we have suggest migration of activity, but don’t tell us enough yet about actual rituals and habits. We are all engaged in a multi-screen dance with our own media that publishers need to service. 

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