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The State of Mobile Video 2017

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What about a very different kind of “mobile video?” Sponsors are creeping into vehicles as we become more dependent on computers to help us get around. If you own or lease a relatively new vehicle, chances are you use an app to interact with it in some way. And if you use a ride-booking service, that app is the only way you interact with it. Free or discounted rides are even becoming a new revenue stream for advertisers.

Imagine this scenario: After you call Lyft or Uber, you can watch the dot of your car moving along a map as it approaches your pickup location. While you watch the dot, an ad pops up down-screen with a call to action like, “Install this app for 10 percent off your next ride.” Or a video ad may give you a free ride up to a certain price point. This is not theory; it’s reality. If Uber or Lyft don’t capitalize on this, Google will. Combine this with the up-and-coming autonomous vehicles like Uber has demonstrated in Pittsburgh and Google is testing in California, and you have a captive audience (riding a specified distance), tech and displays already on board (either built into cars or user’s phone/tablet), and insight (knowing the user’s beginning and end point). In short, you have a dream scenario for advertisers, and video will lead the way.


Politically speaking, 2016 was a year that many of us are ready to forget about as quickly as possible. But there were plenty of lessons to learn, especially in the area of mobile video and social media. In 2012, Facebook head Mark Zuckerberg proudly proclaimed the social media site’s role in the global upheaval known as the Arab Spring. Fast-forward to the end of 2016, and the CEO has been quick to downplay the role the site played in affecting the U.S. election of Donald Trump to the presidency. The culprit wreaking havoc in 2016 was “fake news.” If social media was the “hot new tech” influencing the 2008 election, then mobile was the variable in 2016. Now that social media is solidly ingrained in consumer brains as the go-to location for news and information, short form video is dominating the feeds. When you add in the live-streaming capabilities of Twitter’s Periscope and Facebook’s Live, you have a winning strategy for video when it comes to influencing voters or any other desired group. One standout example was ABC News, with 4 million viewers on one of its YouTube Live election streams.

Choice and Differentiation

Despite the demise of Meerkat, live-streaming apps continue to proliferate. Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter all have their own services and dedicated apps. Snapchat and Instagram have live-streaming capabilities. And Snapchat even has some wacky $130 glasses that people are clamoring to purchase. These “Spectacles” record 10-second videos to your account in a highly unusual circular format. Perhaps the most beautiful aspect of these quirky videos is that they can be viewed in either landscape or portrait mode on a smartphone, and it keeps the video centered and oriented correctly without having to wait on the accelerometer to rotate the screen.

Beme from YouTube star Casey Neistat exited iOS beta in spring 2016 alongside an Android app. This app presents a few different twists to livestreaming from a mobile device. Capturing a Beme does not involve using the phone as a viewfinder. You hold the phone against your torso to begin “beming.” When you pull the phone away, it stops sending. The idea is to get people away from viewing their lives through the screen, but instead to have them keep watching with the naked eye to be “in the moment.” Beme also includes a unique way to interact with videos by sending a reaction. When users choose this option, it sends an image of themselves to the author of the Beme, presumably with a facial expression showing what they thought of the video. However, true to the speed of mobile change, on Dec. 1 CNN announced the acquisition and subsequent shuttering of Beme. So much for variety.

Facebook continues to invest heavily in video. As of October 2016, Facebook Live has seen fourfold growth since it launched. While 50 percent of 2016 internet traffic was video, that number will likely be 70 percent by 2021. With 1.7 billion users in hand, Facebook will not be changing course any time soon. Disney CEO Bob Iger sees the future of his company primarily in mobile video and technology as well. Disney recently invested $1 billion in BAMTech, the video streaming arm of Major League Baseball.


As video continues to devour the majority of the world’s internet usage, the cat and mouse game continues between providers and users. In November 2016, AT&T announced that it will launch “Stream Saver” at the beginning of 2017 for all of its data plans. This “convenience,” which will automatically stream all video to users on its network at 480p, is being pitched in a positive light to users as a way to conserve data. Not only is this déjà vu for users who lived through the unlimited-not-really-unlimited data plans that were throttled after about 2GB of usage each month, but it also dances dangerously close to lines drawn by the Net-Neutrality regulations that T-Mobile has been accused of flouting in the past. AT&T’s olive branch to subscribers is promising that, although it will turn on by default for all users, they will receive a message that it is on along with instructions on how to disable and re-enable the feature.

Finally, if you needed any more signs that smartphone usage is hitting critical mass, look no further than the trend to do away with smartphones altogether. As people become more and more attached to these pocket computers, a blowback of sorts has been brewing. Over the last 10–15 years, most adults have gotten used to the ubiquity of smartphone ownership. The elderly and children were the demographic that represented the largest exception to this trend. However, even those categories have been mostly conquered. But as people have become overwhelmed by the screens and red-dot notifications and become more aware of the health risks associated with smartphone addiction, a modest but notable trend back toward simplistic phones has been occurring. While some of these devices, like the Jitterbug phones, are specifically designed for older users (larger text and buttons), the growing market for simple, elegant “dumbphones” has produced at least one beauty: the MP01 from Swiss-based Punkt.

The Punkt MP01 is a phone—that’s all. Of course, it still has the old feature phone basic set of technology: Bluetooth, custom ring tones, basic calendar, and an alarm. But at its core, the MP01 is designed to be used to make calls and send texts. Save the photos and videos for another device.

2016 proved to be a rather iterative year in the mobile video space with smartphone designs mostly the same, vertical video remaining the thorn in our collective sides, and the mobile OS market maintaining a stable stalemate. We saw a few dramatic flares in the form of virtual and augmented reality apps and technologies. It looks like 2017 will build on these in a rather predictable way, but expect to see more exciting developments near the end of the year as operators and manufacturers put their noses to the grindstone of integrating 5G technologies.

This article appears in the March 2017 issue of Streaming Media magazine.

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