In Mobile Video, Screens Match Immediate Need

There is no mistaking that mobile video is on a tear this past year. The number of video-dedicated apps is mushrooming as screens, speeds and appetite all explode at once. Still, as Nielsen reminds us in its latest report on screen preferences and behaviors worldwide, the overwhelming majority of people choose TV first for enjoying every genre of programming.

In its “Screen Wars” study that included respondents from 60 countries, Nielsen reported that respondents preferred the larger TV screen by a wide margin for all but short-form videos. In fact, the computer or laptop screen continued to rate second-best across programming types as well. In genres like short-form, how-to, sports and (of all things) game shows, mobile and tablet screens start to climb incrementally in preference.

Larger is better when it comes to screen choice, people are saying. But Nielsen EVP, Global Watch Product Leadership Megan Clarken also points out how situational screen choice is. Our preferences for screens change throughout the day and according to where we are and we need. ““Audiences will choose the device that is most compatible with their needs at the time they want to watch,” she says in the report. “Therefore, content must seamlessly flow across time, location and device.”

When the same people were asked about their screen preferences for video by situation, handhelds suddenly became preferred by a long shot. In some cases the situations are obvious: in-car, bathroom, school, shopping. But it's interesting that mobile video viewing rivals the PC when people are at work and when spending time with friends. Privacy and sharing are values that seem to impact screen preference as well as setting. U.S. and European users are also less likely to use mobile phones for video viewing in their own homes than is the rest of the world.  

Gen—Z and Millennials, however, are much more likely to use a range of devices for video viewing no matter where they are. Between 38% (Gen-Z) and 42% (Millennials) are using their mobile phones to watch video at home, which drops significantly among Xers and boomers.  

I am still astounded at the number of mobile video apps that do not allow in-stream and cross-platform bookmarking as well as save-for-later features. A key to cross-screen flexibility is providing users with better tool sets for managing their video viewing. When users comes upon a video in an app or even in a news feed, that doesn’t mean they're a situation that allows viewing. We need better triaging tools. Users should be able to tag videos from any number of apps in a mobile OS and be able to view them later on whatever screen they choose.

YouTube, of course, provides a Watch Later queue that works fine across your logged-in screens. But on mobile we are encountering media in a wider range of players and in multiple apps.

Putting TV or any media “everywhere” is only recognizing one aspect of the mobile transformation: ubiquity. The other part, user control, means giving people the ability to fully shape their media experiences.

By the way, mobile video will be one of the main themes of the upcoming Mobile Insider Summit in Key Largo, April 26-29. We are looking at how the three most important media trends of the last decade -- mobile, digital video and social media -- are driving more innovative marketing.

This is the seventh year of our three-day retreats for brand marketers and senior agency executives. As always, we expect a stellar group of presenters.  Executives from Burger King, Rosetta Stone, LivingSocial, PGA Tour, ADT as well as the mobile, social and strategy leads from Mindshare, Starcom, DigitasLBi, MEC, 3Q Digital are among those speaking.

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