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The State of Mobile Video 2013

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On the other hand, Rhythm NewMedia noted that in mid-2012, that shared tablet usage meant a greater advertising opportunity.

The company stopped short of saying that more than one person was viewing content on a tablet at a time, but they noted that "the fact that more than half of tablets are shared between two or more users means that the tablet audience is even larger than previously predicted" when it comes to overall viewership audience size.

One of the more interesting implications, however, of shared mobile device video consumption usage may be the lowering of advertising rates.

This multi-user, single-tablet revelation goes to the heart of a primary tenant of the mobile video consumption marketing machine: We assume that users carry a tablet as a personal device. After all, while we might have been more likely to room with a sibling growing up than we were to share a desktop computer with them, the advent of laptops, smartphones, and tablet devices seemed to herald the coming of an age of very personal computing in which one person alone consumes content on a device, across the foreseeable "coolness" lifetime of that device.

At least that's the premise of all those targeted advertisements and the idea of personalized video -- with its accompanying personalized advertisements -- runs counter to the notion of shared media consumption not just in terms of the mindset of personalized delivery but also in terms of the rates one can charge for advertising on what turns out to be a multi-user, single-tablet reality.

While broadcast television advertising CPM rates are based on the assumption that a number of viewers may relate to an advertisement while an equal or greater number of viewers may fail to relate, the question naturally arises as to the implications of shared video consumption on devices that were intended to be one-user devices.

In fact, Apple still seems a bit stunned by the idea that iPads are used interchangeably between students in classroom settings, if the lack of robust administrative controls in even the most recent iOS operating system is any indication. Apple accounts for between 70% and 85% of all tablet sales and almost 100% of all educational tablet sales, so the lack of "user accounts" on tablets means it's difficult for an advertiser to determine if viewership on a particular iPad is the aggregate of multiple unique users or merely a single viewer with wildly eclectic tastes.

Smaller Is Bigger?

So, with the smaller size tablet beginning to increase overall tablet sales, first with Android-based devices and now with iOS-based devices, where does that leave the venerable smartphone when it comes to video consumption? After all, if televisions and desktop monitors are, on average, getting much bigger but tablets are trending a bit smaller, the mobile handset almost seems the odd man out.

Turns out that's not necessarily the case: a Business Insider Intelligence (BII) report notes that "[m]obile video is quickly becoming a mass consumer phenomenon, much as digital photos were earlier in the smartphone adoption cycle."

BII notes that 4G and LTE -- coupled with device design improvements in screen quality, size, and battery life -- are driving better mobile video consumption trends. Tablet video consumption is higher, but only by approximately 15% when it comes to truly mobile (cellular-based) video consumption. And the overall online video consumption on all non-Wi-Fi devices almost doubled from April 1, 2012, to June 24, 2012, from 2.6% of overall online video consumption to almost 5% of all online video consumption.

The Olympic Effect

These numbers don't begin to tell the whole story, though, because they don't include the single biggest sporting event of 2012, the London Olympic Games. The games did more to shift the playing field toward mobile content viewing than anything else to date.

As we reported during the Streaming Media Europe conference, the BBC Online service during the games reached more than 65% of the adult U.K. population, with staggering global numbers as well.

"57 million browser requests were made to bbc.co.uk," said Jane Weedon, director of business development for BBC Future Media.

"With 12 million video views for mobile devices, and more than 1.9 million downloads of the Olympic smartphone app, more than 34 per cent of content requests to the BBC Sport website were from mobile devices," said Weedon, noting that mobile viewing peaked at almost 40% on the weekend.

The fact that usage peaked on weekends meant that consumers are more comfortable watching breaking sporting events on their mobile devices (or at least are less concerned that they will lose the opportunity to view events as they happen). This viewership appears to have come at the expense of desktop and laptop viewership, with consumers trending toward either the highly mobile screens -- smartphones and tablets -- or the big screen television when they wanted to share the moment with friends.

Even those on smartphones could share the moment with friends, through social media and tweets, which peaked considerably during key live events. Weedon noted that mobile tablet consumption was interesting, with tablets being used both as a second screen -- to catch up on previous events while watching live on television -- as well as just prior to bedtime as the primary screen.

All in all, the total number of video requests -- more than 111 million -- was double that of any previous BBC event, with the trend toward mobile video firmly entrenched in time for next year's World Cup in Brazil and the Olympic Games in the same venues 2 years later.

Time to Segment

Regardless of whether we hoard a device just for ourselves or share it with others, one trend is clear: The consumption of video on mobile devices has grown so rapidly that we now have an opportunity as an industry to begin to segment mobile viewership into categories.

In 2013, there is a firm need to delve into the various types of consumers, their preference for types of video content across each device they own -- or borrow, as we've seen with tablet viewership -- and embrace the fact that the majority of online content viewing is now viewed on portable and mobile devices.

This article appears in the forthcoming 2013 Streaming Media Industry Sourcebook.

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