Mobile viewing of video is a buzz topic du jour, but according to SVOD leader Netflix, consumer behaviour hasn’t quite evolved to prolonged long-form viewing on handheld devices. Yet.
Netflix's Scott Meyer, VP of the device partner ecosystem at Netflix, said during a presentation at Mobile World Congress that most users are still using laptops, computers, and connected TVs and set-tops to watch streaming content. Just 10% of all Netflix traffic is consumed on handhelds.
There’s been a spike in smartphone penetration around the globe, which means that more people on more devices are tapping into Netflix overall — in fact, half of all of its subscribers watch some amount of content on their phones every month. But they’re not doing it as their first choice of screen. It’s rather, he explained, a complementary activity.
Evidence for this lies in the fact that Netflix viewing on smartphones tends to happen an hour later than the peak hours for larger-screen viewing — suggesting that users may be watching a movie or show on a TV or laptop, but then pause and pick it up later, perhaps from bed, on a phone or tablet.
Other peak times for mobile viewing are more obvious: during the morning rush hour, and workday lunchtimes.
"Behaviour on mobile is different," Meyer said. “We're just starting to learn about this.”
Because availability rather than content seems to drive mobile viewing, he added that he believes that building purposefully mobile content — ie, short form ‘snackable’ video, etc — is a quixotic enterprise.
“If you sit down and think, 'How do you build video for mobile?' you're probably not going to hit the mark," he said.
There’s no doubt that mobile video traffic is escalating every year as networks and screen get better. The latest Cisco Visual Networking Index calculates that by 2020 total traffic will reach an annual run rate of 30.6 Exabytes per month, the equivalent of what is stored on 7,641 million DVDs or seven trillion online video clips. That means that mobile video will represent three-quarters of global mobile data traffic, up from 55% in 2015, as video streaming increases in popularity over traditional TV.
In the UK alone, mobile video will be 77% of the mobile data traffic by 2020, compared with 59% at the end of 2015.
The research suggests that users’ demand for higher video resolution, more bandwidth, and processing speed will increase the use of 4G connected devices which are set to represent more than 70% of all mobile traffic, and 4G connections will generate nearly six times more traffic per month than non-4G connections by 2020.
“With the ever-increasing billions of people and things that are being connected, mobility is the predominant medium that’s enabling today’s global digitisation transformation,” said Doug Webster, vice president of service provider marketing, Cisco. “Future mobile innovations in cellular, such as 5G, and Wi-Fi solutions will be needed to further address new scale requirements, security concerns and user demands. IoT advancements will continue to fuel tangible benefits for people, businesses and societies.”