At Ooyala we’re continually measuring the viewing habits of millions of individuals worldwide, and our research has us convinced that video viewing on mobile devices is going to make up more than half of all views by 2016. That’s not surprising, given ongoing advances in the mobile ecosystem.
Manufacturers have developed tablets and smartphones, such as the iPhone 6, with features like bigger screens that make "anywhere, anytime" viewing more enjoyable and drive increased mobile video consumption. Developers also have cranked out apps and content designed to drive viewer engagement and make viewing more seamless for mobile devices; and ad delivery systems, well on their way to providing personalization, have made mobile-video advertising simpler.
Yet despite all this progress, mobile video still has its pitfalls: In fact 60 percent of all mobile video suffers from quality issues. In addition, device fragmentation continues to dog mobile-app developers, and advertisers are still waiting for effective mobile-viewing measures. Clearly, we need more than a little sleight of hand for mobile video to more fully meet the needs of viewers, content providers and broadcasters. What’s behind some of the challenges with mobile, and how will we surmount them?
A fragmented view
It’s in advertisers’ and content owners’ best interest to deliver video to the largest number of devices and platforms possible while ensuring a reliable, high-quality experience. Yet, obstacles exist. Though it may sound simple to take a single video clip and repurpose it for playback on multiple devices, a lack of standards means that developers have to create a different version for each device -- and that's a challenge, to say the least.
Android devices are especially problematic: In 2014 OpenSignal reported that developers had to account for at least 18,796 different Android devices, a 60 percent increase from the previous year. The bottom line is that fragmentation is a mobile-device fact of life that’s not going to be resolved any time soon. Publishers and content providers need to get creative and find solutions to address the issues inherent in fragmentation. Fortunately, we’ve seen progress, with the introduction of software development kits (SDKs) and applications that let developers work around native players and deliver high-quality video playback across a variety of devices.
The widespread belief is that if users are interested in your content, they will install your application. But the fact remains that there are also a lot of folks browsing on mobile devices and coming across content serendipitously. That leaves smaller providers facing the choice of where and how to invest in mobile video delivery. If they choose to invest in an application, there still remains the question of which device(s) to design for.
Screen size, inputs and user interfaces vary dramatically across devices and require very different approaches (see above). The good news is, analytics are improving all the time and will help push targeted content to viewers. Going forward, content discovery and personalized experiences may help eliminate the “either/or” conundrum.
The long and short of It
Yahoo and other publishers are betting that viewers will increasingly turn to their mobile devices to watch mainstream, longer-form content. Yahoo launched Yahoo! Screen, an offering that makes its video content available through a mobile app, in hopes of drawing viewers and advertisers alike. Viacom and HBO also cast their votes for the concept, partnering with Yahoo to provide favorites such as The Colbert Report, SNL and original web series like The Leftovers for the mobile app.
Still, how do providers really know where to place their bets? While our data show that 48 percent of the time spent viewing videos on mobile during a recent time period was spent watching long-form content, that still left 50-plus percent of the time that viewers were watching short-form content.
Providers need to know what’s being watched, and when. For example, if I’m a video provider, should I serve ads prior to the start of programming, or in the middle? What happens to viewing habits if I create content that’s a little longer?
Unfortunately, the answers to those questions aren’t easily found because measurement standards haven’t yet caught up with the mobile ecosystem. At issue is the ability to measure unique audiences across devices and gauge how they interact with each other. Standard cross-platform measures, particularly those incorporating mobile video viewing, present one of the chief challenges to wider adoption of mobile video.
Despite device and delivery hiccups and lagging measurement standards, the evidence does point to a future in which mobile will become the main act in video and TV consumption, and by extension, advertising. Forward-thinking developers, content providers and advertisers will do well to look past today’s obstacles and envision the world in which mobile video-viewing will be as easy as saying abracadabra.