Thirty-two years after a product rollout that some considered laughable, it is now clear that the Sony Watchman has arrived.
Except that Sony is not in a position to reap the rewards. After a number of false starts and abandoned notions, the basic concept of portable and personal TV has taken root in consumer sensibilities. According to Adobe’s Q3 U.S. Digital Video Benchmark Index, almost a third of all digital video starts are occurring on a smartphone or tablet now. Streaming is about evenly divided now between tablets and mobile, but growth on the smaller screen is faster -- up 56% YoY. And despite Android’s market throw weight, Adobe is seeing still 80.7% of tablet videos going to iPads and 81.4% of smartphone viewing occurring on iPhones. Keep in mind that the metrics reflect developers using Adobe analytics tools.
I have been complaining for over a decade now that the desktop and laptop are probably the most tortuous media consumption experience invented in the last two centuries. This content has been waiting for years to flee the desk and even the nominally portable laptop. The figures show this. Video views per visit are highest on gaming consoles and tablets, but even smartphones have a higher video view rate than PCs. Curiously, some tablets are excelling in terms of being used as dedicated video viewers. For instance, even though the iPad and iPhone are responsible for the overwhelming majority of video starts on devices, other devices see a larger share of their overall use dedicated to video. Adobe is seeing the Amazon Kindle Fire, for instance, has the highest video view rate of any tablet by a long shot, followed by the Galaxy Tab and Microsoft Surface. iPads and iPhones apparently are being used for such a wide variety of browsing tasks that the share of time with them spent viewing video trails the others. For Amazon, this certainly shows that its tying of Kindle fire devices to the Amazon Prime Instant Video service has traction. Still, Amazon only has 4% of the video start share overall.
TV Everywhere is accelerating monstrously. Authenticated video views were up 108% since Q3 last year and up 38% just since last quarter. Routes of authentication vary by channel and genre type, Adobe observes. But most authenticated streams are coming through iOS, vs. browser or Android. The actual audience for TV Everywhere has grown 34% since last year. Average monthly authenticated videos seen by visitor has also gone up 39%, but Android users are leading growth (up 65%). Adobe analysts argue that peoples’ viewing behaviors are shifting toward more binge viewing on devices. You can see some video providers apart from Netflix and Amazon adjusting accordingly. In just the last few months, some sort form episodics from media brands like Conde Nast have released some of their series in full season dumps to accommodate binging.
Movie networks have seen the greatest growth in viewing frequency (64%) of any genre type. I know from, my own experience that apps from Sony’s Crackle and especially Turner Classic Movies have become increasingly attractive on my devices. TCM wisely puts its most recently broadcast films into a nice rotation of content that is available for a couple of weeks at a time in its app.
I am curious whether the personalization of TV/movie viewing on devices will open up new possibilities for both paid and ad supported video services mainly on devices. The possibilities for even more niche channels on devices emerges. I have been testing two paid services of late, Fandor (art/foreign cinema) and Concert Vault (concert audio and video archives). These are the sorts of media sources that serve highly personal tastes of a sort that don’t map well even to TV, which is after all a shared family resource. It is on my tablet or phone where I can enjoy watching the restored version of "Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" or that umpteenth 1970s King Crimson concert recording without subjecting wife and daughter to my tastes. My guess is that the new intimacy of an old mass medium will make possible new models for both consumers and media.