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The State of Mobile Video 2016

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For instance, the two iPhone 6 models don’t share a common screen resolution, but the larger screen is about 1.4 times the size of its smaller sibling’s. Thus content creation is simplified due to a simple scale change rather than a different aspect ratio.

Similarly, content consumption is more consistent between these devices since a video created for one will display the same on the other without the need for any letterboxing.

The same can’t be said for Android phones. With the proliferation of multitier manufacturers serving different markets and audiences around the world has come a mind-boggling number of screen sizes and resolutions. As a general rule, the most common flagship devices from the top manufacturers (LG, Motorola, Samsung, Google, HTC) do share just a few resolutions, including 1920x1080 and 2560x1440.

Whether a user buying a new smartphone is hopping the fence into the enemy’s territory or not, there are some universal trends in usage. For example, the first 7–10 days after a purchase reflect a drastically changing data usage pattern. The first days are mostly software downloads, with video trailing around 10 percent. Within 10 days of beginning to use a new device, users have moved video consumption up the bar chart to almost half of all usage. Combine this statistic with the overall statistic that 43 percent of data usage is video and you see that the first 2 weeks after an upgrade result in a major change in data usage.

YouTube Is Still King

In the streaming video world’s game of thrones, no one has yet to unseat the early and still reigning champion: YouTube. This Alphabet/Google-owned online video platform continues to dominate user mindshare, mobile video traffic and video ad dollars.

Sitting just behind No. 1 Facebook in top mobile apps, YouTube also ranks above FB Messenger, Google Search, and Google Maps in smartphone icon placement, with YouTube finding its icon on about 55 percent of smartphone users’ home screens.

Amazingly, it has continued to grow quickly. From June 2014 to June 2015, YouTube saw a 90 percent year-over-year increase in usage among tablet users. Total mobile usage was up 46 percent in the same period. The average mobile viewing session now lasts more than 40 minutes. Guess those larger screens may be making it easier on the eyes.

While the advertising revenue from YouTube continues to double every year in mobile, YouTube continue to reinvest in its top channels, ensuring continued growth. And the addressable market is big—in fact very big: Its Millennial audience (aged 18–34) continues to be the top market, reaching more people than any cable network in the U.S.

What Does the Future Hold?

The future looks like it contains a whole lot of LTE enhancements.

Networks will continue to outbid each other for precious cellular radio spectrum, an invisible commodity so crucial to their survival that they’ve pressured the FCC to wrest control of some of the “extra” airwaves from terrestrial television broadcasters.

Verizon rolled out XLTE (LTE Advanced) en masse last year and is continuing to expand this faster, leaner technology to increase its capacity and bandwidth. Paul’s Moto X gets a healthy 25+Mbps down and up while sitting at home in Knoxville, Tenn., on Verizon’s speedy new spectrum, but even that’s not enough for some avid video consumers, so don’t expect mobile network operators to sit on their haunches, especially Big Red.

Verizon also claims that the barely embryonic 5G network technology will be “widely available” on its network by 2017, with widespread testing starting in 2016. Most other industry experts say it’s implausible for the technology to see that kind of adoption that quickly, though, and the more tempered opinions put the date at closer to 2020.

However, given Verizon’s rapid rollout history with 4G, we shouldn’t discount the forecast quite so quickly. Meanwhile, while mobile carriers push toward iterations of existing technologies, companies such as Google and Facebook continue to try moon-shot experiments, such as Google’s Project Loon. In an effort to blanket even the most remote parts of the globe in internet connectivity, Google has launched internet-equipped weather balloons into the sky.

Due to the uncontrollable nature of these floating apparatuses, some of their destinations have been less than desirable. Case in point: When a “loon” landed in a tree in a Chino Hills, Calif., front yard.

On the smartphone front, expect 2016 to bring more iteration than innovation. Apple will bring us a new iPhone (or two). Google will gift us with another Nexus (or two). Amazon will launch yet another zany and potentially calamitous “connected’ device, and we’ll all collectively wonder again if it’s actually an elaborate April Fools’ joke (see Amazon Dash).

Mobile carriers will continue to do battle over data throttling, device ownership, plans, and spectrum and, of course, the consumers that pay for all of it.

On the upside, expect your connection speeds to inch up in 2016. On the downside, expect your data allowance to plummet down.

If you’re a content creator, expect to have increasing opportunities in online video that’s tailored for mobile ... even if it’s vertical. From advertising advancements to the higher-pixel densities we mentioned at the top of the article, the state of mobile is far from static.

Dynamic ad insertion technologies, aided by “stitching” of streams—used to combine ads and primary video content—will continue to battle against ad blocking technologies, which are continuing to advance in both scale and sophistication. (See “A Stitch in Time?”)

Due to this, we suspect that the mobile video platform will become the new battleground for the ad serving/ad blocking war that’s been raging mostly on the desktop for the past few years. In other words, your mobile device may soon be subject to a whole heap of ads to make up for the lack of served ads on the desktop.

Or it might just get bigger, replacing your laptop in its entirety. That’s the final trend we see. From the Apple iPad Pro to the Microsoft Surface 4 (and high-priced Surface Book), there’s a movement afoot to make mobile the new desktop.

Regardless of whether that takes place in 2016, we urge our readers to get their mobile video strategies in order, to consider what steps they’ll take to deliver content to an increasingly fragmented marketplace of Apple, Android, and also-ran mobile devices. Without a clear strategy, content owners and premium content publishers may find themselves all dressed up with no place to serve their content.

This article appears in the 2016 Streaming Media Industry Sourcebook.

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