It was 10 years ago today that Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone. Looking back, it’s hard to believe that even Jobs could have imagined how profound and far-reaching the iPhone’s impact would be. One short decade later, there is arguably not a single Internet application that hasn’t been impacted by mobile. Meanwhile, many new applications have been created solely as a result of the mobile phenomenon.
Mobile video is certainly one application that was essentially created by the iPhone and subsequent smartphones. Watching video on smartphones is now a completely mainstream behavior, which countless millions of people engage with regularly. But despite mobile video’s already impressive growth, there are at least 7 reasons mobile video is now at a tipping point, with the biggest growth still ahead:
1. T-Mobile disrupts mobile data, unlocking video viewing
The biggest impediments to mobile video are expensive mobile data plans and unreliable connectivity. T-Mobile addressed both in late 2015 with the introduction of “Binge On,” which provides unlimited video streaming from certain services (now over a 100), with easier-to-deliver compressed files. No surprise, Binge On has been a hit. Now T-Mobile is ramping up T-Mobile ONE, an unlimited service, with streamlined pricing. T-Mobile’s moves have led to both AT&T and Verizon liberalizing their data plans and pricing as well, making it more feasible to watch video on their networks.
2. Verizon and AT&T expand into content
Speaking of Verizon and AT&T, both are evolving fast from their telco roots, with aggressive content investments (Verizon has acquired AOL and is likely to add Yahoo, while expanding Go90; AT&T trying to acquire Time Warner and is rolling out DirecTV Now). As they seek more revenue from content and targeted ads in particular, both companies have lots of incentives to further enable mobile video viewing. One way they’re already pursuing this is by exempting their video services from data plans. For AT&T especially, as it promotes DirecTV Now and its pending 5G rollout, mobile video could be critical to its success.
3. WiFi proliferation
Even as mobile carriers are innovating, WiFi is growing as a legitimate alternative, particularly for watching video. Now widely deployed by cafes, municipalities, airports, health clubs, broadband ISPs and many others, robust WiFi means carrier data caps are irrelevant (as long as you’re in a fixed location, at least for now). All this WiFi is unlocking lots of new opportunities to watch video on the go.
4. Facebook doubles down on video
One of my main 2017 predictions is Facebook’s continued emphasis on video, which is virtually all mobile. With almost 2 billion monthly users, it’s impossible to overestimate the impact Facebook can have in driving mobile video forward. From investing in content to prioritizing live-streaming to launching numerous video features to increasing video’s centrality to the Facebook user experience, it’s clear that Facebook is going to be a big catalyst for mobile video consumption. If it can create a superb video monetization opportunity for content providers, its influence will be even more significant.
5. Comcast and other cable operators move into mobile
Comcast has confirmed that by mid-2017 it will launch its own mobile phone service, relying on both its vast WiFi network and Verizon’s network. While pricing is still TBD, it’s hard to imagine Comcast not aggressively bundling mobile with existing video, voice and broadband services. By leveraging its WiFi network, Comcast has a cost advantage over mobile carriers. This should lead to more expansive (if not unlimited) data plans at reduced prices from Comcast. Couple this with its TV Everywhere and X1 priorities, and it’s clear Comcast has a huge incentive to promote mobile video as a differentiator.
6. Smartphones keep getting better for video viewing
Though breakthrough smartphone innovation has slowed, the emphasis on bigger, better screens, faster processors and increased storage are all directly benefiting mobile video. Storage growth (iPhone 7 has a 256 GB option compared to 16 GB max in the original) in particular is key for enabling video downloading, which both Amazon and Netflix now allow for certain titles. Lots of older viewers still marvel how younger viewers can watch video on their smartphones - even when a TV is available - but the reality is for kids, smartphone viewing is every bit as compelling and will only become more so.
7. Mobile measurement improves
Shifting viewership to smartphones doesn’t matter for ad-free SVOD viewing, but for ad-supported TV, it’s a big deal. And so measuring all this mobile video usage, in a coherent way relative to TV, is critical for both TV networks and ad buyers. To date, measurement has been problematic, but Nielsen and others are making headway. And mobile offers advertisers the tantalizing prospect of enhanced targeting. As well, there’s a growing advertising opportunity to figure out how to leverage combined mobile and TV viewing to drive actions.
Add it all up and there’s ample reason to believe that the mobile video revolution that the original iPhone kicked off 10 years ago is now at an inflection point. Exploding usage across multiple networks on better devices with improved measurement - combine it all and the next 10 years for mobile video look very bright.
For those of you feeling nostalgic, here is the video of Steve Jobs unveiling the original iPhone, back on January 9, 2007:
Categories: Mobile Video