One common factor emerges from a recent deluge of surveys covering the impact of mobility, multiple platforms and social media on TV, which is that video is exploding in all directions. Ericsson’s latest Mobility Report highlights the growing pervasiveness of video across the whole online content world, including news, advertising and social media, and not just traditional broadcast TV. This means that more long form content is being consumed on smartphones and tablets and implies this trend is likely to continue through to 2020.
The other very significant trend for pay TV operators highlighted by Ericsson, is the ascendancy of the app for mobile video consumption and the decline of the browser. Already, the top five apps account for two thirds of all app traffic according to Ericsson, with Facebook in the lead generating around 20% of all app data in most leading markets. YouTube and Netflix also feature prominently in most markets, especially the US where they account for 15% and 12% of all app traffic respectively.
The main implication for operators, broadcasters and content owners is that consumers, including their own customers, will spend more time consuming video within the confines of an app, most often Facebook or one of the OTT service providers, rather than coming in over the open Internet via a browser. They must therefore make sure they have a presence within those app portals where relevant, say a YouTube channel or Facebook page, as well as providing an app of their own. Smart content owners will go where the audience is.
There is another interesting nuance that has slipped almost beneath the radar despite appearing in a survey from analyst group Gartner, which is that the once unstoppable tablet market has lost some momentum. This is reflected in video consumption going more to the latest large screen smartphones, or “phablets”, and also even to a new generation of so called “skinny laptops”. What we are seeing here is a split in viewing, with longer form material consumed more on larger screens, while the smartphone is the device people will use for snacking because it is just quicker and more convenient. This is leading to the smartphone becoming a pivotal device in the TV experience, taking over from the remote and acting as the universal content portal, but directing a lot of longer form viewing back to the main screen.
We should not get too bogged down in device definitions, but this is a continued reminder of the ever-changing nature of our industry – and, perhaps, a little cold water on the idea that the tablet will end up replacing the TV on a large scale.
There are two big implications for all of this: one obvious, one more subtle. The distinction between online and traditional TV viewing is blurring, as we have known for some time. As a result it is becoming essential to have a unified system for measuring viewing. There is likely to be limited future in having separate dedicated panels for TV and online.
A second, less talked about, implication, is that operators can increasingly have greater level of knowledge about how their services are used than anyone else. This wasn’t always the case, especially in the days where linear TV was the only game in town. It will be more and more difficult for a single third party to measure viewing across multiple screens, devices, and interfaces. As the ones at the top of the stream (excuse the pun) when it comes to their content, operators have a unique view on how their content is consumed across these devices. And with a unified approach and the right technology, they are uniquely positioned to take advantage of this.