Ithink we can all agree that the traditional television experience—you know, sitting on your couch and watching the TV according to
some sort of schedule—is undergoing a transformation. The different ways people watch video content is exploding across devices, apps,
and websites. Video has been unchained from
the family room and is roaming around the subways, grocery store lines, and coffee shops. People are watching from everywhere.
Behind this transformation are core technologies, like IP, consumer demand, and even
new innovations like AR/VR. It’s really a convergence of forces that will work together,
over the next decade, to fundamentally change
how people consume video content. But the device that will likely play the biggest role is the
smartphone. Really? Yep.
Sure, for 2-minute You Tube content, it makes
total sense (especially when you need video to
explain how to replace the garbage disposal,
and a laptop won’t fit underneath the sink very
easily). But when I think about people watching full-length movies and TV shows on their
phones, a host of questions jumps to mind: Isn’t
the screen too small? Doesn’t video consume too
much data? Isn’t the quality going to be worse?
Despite those questions, it makes total sense
that people are watching more and more video of all types on their phones. People are addicted to their phones; some studies say people check them more than 150 times each day
(mainly for social media, of course). They have
these devices in their pockets, or on their nightstands, 24/7/365. So it makes perfect sense
that they would turn to them to watch video.
And when you consider how much screen res-
olutions have improved, it’s really not a stretch
to imagine people wanting to watch more vid-
eo on them. It would seem that portability and
convenience trump the size of the screen it-
self. In fact, according to a recent mobile video
study published by the Streaming Video Alli-
ance, Millennials would rather watch video on
their mobile phones than on devices connected
to their TVs! And that selection of phone over
TV is even more prevalent for younger viewers.
A recent study by Google and Ipsos uncovered
that Generation Z favors watching video on mo-
bile phones even more than Millennials. And I’d
be remiss if I didn’t admit that I enjoy watching
sporting events (NHL Center Ice) on my phone.
Watching video on a smartphone is clearly a
growing trend. And Cisco agrees. In its annual Visual Networking Index report, it predicts
that more than 80% of mobile traffic will be video in just a few years.
But we can’t get around the data consumption. Watching an hour-long hockey game at
720p, for example, is going to chew through a
lot of bits. Enter unlimited data plans. The carriers are back at it again, competing against one
another to woo consumers with the ability to
stream and consume whatever they want. The
hounds have been unleashed, and people are
responding by watching more video, whether
it’s on You Tube or Netflix.
And quality? I don’t think we are very far
from having true 4K-capable mobile phones.
And when that happens, people will look for
higher-quality video content (even though it
won’t make a big visual impact because of the
size of the screen).
What does this mean for content distributors and broadcasters that are delivering online video to their subscribers? I think the answer is clear—focus on mobile first. If the video
experience isn’t tailored for the small screen,
there’s a good chance that consumers (or subscribers) will find content elsewhere that is.
The future of television is in the palms of
our hands, it would seem. Now, if you’ll forgive
me, I need to stop writing so I can watch some
more La La Land on my phone as I wait in line
at Starbucks for my coffee.
How Big of a Role
Will Mobile Phones Play
in the Future of Television?
Jason Thibeault is the executive director of the Streaming Video
Alliance. Follow him on Twitter @_jasonthibeault.
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