The Big Picture In 2016 Will Really Be The Small Screen

People have been saying for at least a couple years that no advertiser or content creator that isn’t “mobile first” should change their way of thinking. It will probably be good for them to keep thinking that way in 2016.

There will be lots of predictions for the year ahead, but nothing as pivotal as understanding how much mobile video viewing is exploding. (Less mentioned and somewhat more mysterious, is the fall off in tablet viewing.)

Let’s flesh out those screen changes a little:  YouTube now says mobile viewers now spend an average of 40 minutes per session, up 50% over a year ago. The number of people watching via mobile had doubled. And YouTube’s revenue from mobile plays has also doubled.

And because mobile viewing is usually fast, fast, fast, content-creators now have moments, even "micro-moments", to make their points and advertisers have even a more compacted space to work within.  As Greg Jarboe at ReelSEO reported, “most people check their phones 150 times a day, but spend only 177 minutes on their phones per day [and] Google calculates that mobile sessions, on average, are just one minute and 10 seconds long.”

I think it must be hard for marketers to accept that the viewing experience itself isn’t such a big deal, but that’s true. Maybe that goes right back to the beginning of online video when buffering and worse was so common that anything nominally better was a big plus. YouTube’s earliest days were filled with amateur video, badly shot and dull. 

So as screens got very small, that seemingly lousy viewing environment was no big deal. And phone consumers know, things get better. Smartphone consumers essentially know that the phone they have now will be laughably obsolete by next week. They are eager guinea pigs. reported, “According to AOL’s latest research on video, people are 4x as likely to watch on a device based on convenience, not viewing experience. Screen size also matters very little to consumers. This means that brands need to shift gears when connecting their creative development with their strategic deployment by providing video content optimized for mobile-first consumers.”

Curiously--at least to me--is that while mobile viewing is going fast forward, tablet viewing seems to be more muddled. That was the device, after all, that was intended to be the handy compromise between the small-screen mobile phone and the more unwieldy laptop.

But worldwide, Adobe’s Digital index and Ooyala research cites, at best, flat growth for tablets. Adobe says it’s gone from a 13.5% share in last year’s Q3 to 12.6% for the corresponding quarter this year. For a business where up seems to be the only way things can go, that’s a noteworthy stat, but it also speaks to that convenience-over-quality thing.

That's the trend. In the year ahead, everybody from the NFL to Verizon’s Go90 to news will be underscoring the importance of mobile video.

That’s not exactly a thinking-outside-the-box kind of prediction but it’s what I think 2016 will be all about: Mobile video will be the dominant overriding story of the business. Thinking small and short has never loomed larger.

4 comments about "The Big Picture In 2016 Will Really Be The Small Screen".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, December 29, 2015 at 6:25 p.m.

    P.J., I think that it might be useful to look at what Nielsen is reporting for mobile video "viewing", as it uses  meterized measurements, not peoples' unsubstantiated and often wildly inflated claims. And yes, its true that mobile video "viewing" rose by a whopping 33% from the third quarter of 2014 to the corresponding time in 2015. Over the same period, "live" TV viewing fell by almost 3% for the total population aged 2+. And the results were even grimmer among the 18-24s, where live viewing was down by a shocking 12% while mobile video surged with a 34% gain.

    Despite these findings, it's a tad premature to claim that mobile video "viewing" is "exploding" for the actual amount of time people spend with mobile phone videos, while growing, is tiny compared to their consumption of live TV.Here again, I turn to Nielsen for some stats. On a per-capita basis, that resounding decline in weekly "live" TV viewing by the 18-24s amounted to 124 minutes per person, with the total time spent dropping from 17 hours and 34 minutes to 15 hours and 30 minutes. At the same time, mobile video, which saw that impressive percentage gain, increased from 29 minutes per week per person to 39 minutes in the latest Nielsen report. So if we assume that people are deserting live TV for mobile, why didn't the mobile figure for 18-24s rise by 124 minutes per week, not 10?

    The fact of the matter is that mobile video is not going to explode unless a tremendous amount of new and engaging content is offered by mobile---and I don't mean two and three minute short form videos. Even if longer formats were attempted, I doubt that many people are going to turn to their mobile phones to consume such content with any degree of frequency, especially on small screens, with content constantly interrupted by ads and users on the go, not having the time to spend watching engaging videos on their smartphones. That doesn't mean that some people wont give it a try, but I don't see smartphones as the great threat to live TV that is implied in your piece. It's just one more of many platforms competing for attention.

  2. John Grono from GAP Research, December 29, 2015 at 8:21 p.m.

    Hear, head Ed.

    Also, I notice that Nielsen pegs mobile video increased to 39 minutes per week.   At the same time YouTube now says mobile viewers now spend an average of 40 minutes per session.

    So to put the mobile viewing in context it is roughly the same as a single Youtube session in a week.

  3. Leonard Zachary from T___n__, December 30, 2015 at 3:15 p.m.

    Barry Diller said it best" ratings are a Con Game".

  4. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, December 30, 2015 at 4:35 p.m.

    Leonard, I knew many of the people at the ABC TV network and none of them believed that Nielsen was substantially misrepresenting the TV ratings or providing grossly inaccurate findings---even when ABC was being clobbered by CBS and, sometimes, by NBC. In fact I made it a point to compare Nielsen's national TV ratings with alternative sources---like the sum total of all of the local market Arbitron ratings and  national studies by Simmons and others ---all of which indicated the same shows as "winners" or "losers". The only question was the matter of degree.

    In fairness to your point, however, I would say that Nielsen is certainly playing catchup these days in terms of measuring digital TV viewing and related matters---like SVOD program ratings----so it's fair to say that Nielsen needs to up its game and quickly in these venues so it truly measures all of the TV/video audience. I might add that the new Nielsen ploy of estimating, rather than measuring, viewer-per-home ratios for a significant portion of its expanded panel raises still more issues, however I doubt that Barry  was saying, in effect, that the TV ratings were all wrong---hence a con game. More likely, he meant that there was too much reliance on them and too little on common sense and sound judgement but, perhaps, Barry would care to clarify. I cant presume to speak for him.

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