It’s a new decade, which practically means it’s the cusp of a whole new era for the fast-moving world of mobile video. So what can marketers expect to see in 2020? For all the answers, mobile network experience firm Opensignal recently released its 2nd annual State of Mobile Video Experience report, along with new survey data that provides a unique look at the U.S. mobile video experience.
The report analyzes real-world video streams (from sources like YouTube) to determine video quality in the U.S. and 99 other countries worldwide. And to get a better idea of how U.S. consumers use mobile video, the firm also conducted a survey of 1,000 U.S. consumers, weighted for the U.S. population by age and gender. Together, the report and survey help to illustrate operator challenges and opportunities in the U.S. in the face of an increasing consumer appetite for streaming video on their “small screens.”
Long-form video viewing via mobile on the rise
According to the survey results, although 64 percent of U.S. consumers noted they are most likely to watch short, snackable videos (under 5 minutes) on their mobile devices, there is an increasing number watching longer-form content like TV shows and movies. Opensignal found that 39 percent of respondents watch TV programs on their smartphones and 38 percent watch movies. That number increases substantially for younger viewers: 55 percent of Gen Z stream movies on their mobile device and 52 percent of millennials stream TV programs or series.
With the ubiquity of 4G connectivity and a growing number of mobile subscribers on unlimited data plans, consumers are also tuning in to their favorite shows over wireless connections (vs. Wifi). In fact, of consumers that say they watch movies and TV programs on their mobile device, nearly half (46 percent) do so at home on a wireless connection.
But the U.S. still ranks in the middle of the global pack for video experience
While there was an improvement in Americans’ Video Experience in Opensignal’s user tests—with the score increasing from 46.7 to 53.8 points—the U.S. continues to rank in the middle of the pack globally on Mobile Video Experience, scoring a Fair rating. The score is derived from measuring real-world video streams using an ITU-based approach for determining quality—taking into account picture quality, video loading time and stall rate.
The survey results confirm the Fair rating from Opensignal’s real-world mobile analytics. While consumers have grown accustomed to watching mobile video on wireless connections, 44 percent noted they experienced stuttering or freezing. An additional 36 percent say they sometimes switch to Wifi to better stream video on their smartphone, and 30 percent indicate that if mobile video playback stutters or freezes, they give up trying to watch.
Wireless spectrum availability is likely a key culprit. Capacity is essential to offering large numbers of users both fast speeds and plans with the large volumes of data needed for large scale high-quality mobile video delivery. And demand keeps increasing. Recently, Verizon, a major partner with the Disney+ launch, noted that 40 percent of all its wireless traffic was from Disney+ streaming on launch day.
Until 5G is rolled out at scale in the U.S., carriers will face difficult choices around increasing the price of data, or of managing video streaming traffic tightly, for example, to lower picture quality. If they do neither, the download experience of their users will likely suffer as video traffic overwhelms everything else on the network.
Mobile viewing by social networks and OTT providers
Although traditional video content viewing on mobile devices is increasing, social video watching remains the most frequent with 76 percent of consumers noting they watched YouTube video on their smartphone in the last month, and 51 percent watching mobile video on Facebook. Meanwhile, Netflix (47 percent) is the OTT provider that consumers tune into the most on mobile devices, followed by Amazon Prime (38 percent) and Hulu (25 percent).
Consumers also appear to be highly aware of the new entrants into the streaming market as they explore additional mobile viewing options. Over 70 percent of consumers said they heard of Disney+, while 59 percent knew Apple TV+ and another 41 percent knew HBO Max. However, these answers also spotlighted how difficult it may be for new streaming video providers to build brand recognition alongside options from well-known brands. Only 3 percent of consumers said they were aware of Quibi, the billion-dollar backed, short-form mobile video platform scheduled to launch in the spring of 2020.