You don’t have to wait very long for another “Connected TV vs. Mobile” stat to pop up, as industry watchers consider what connected TV growth may or may not mean for mobile video. For example, a recent well-circulated report from Extreme Reach showed that CTVs’ share of video ad impressions has grown to 49%, while mobile’s share of impressions is decreasing. The report pointed to a 60% YOY jump in CTV ad impressions in Q1, also asserting that this growth in CTV ad impressions is “encroaching on mobile devices, whose share of video ad impressions dipped to 25%, the lowest in two years.” Yet the comparison does not acknowledge evolving viewer behavior and the fact that both CTV and mobile video are each growing in terms of overall time spent.
It is easy to understand the growth in connected TV relative to the market. In recent years, the market has been introduced to a host of new ad-driven OTT services and business models that are meant to dislodge legacy cable/satellite/telcos’ hold on the big screen. These offerings include virtual MVPDs, such as YouTube TV, Sling TV and Hulu, that are meant to be full replacements for traditional cable services. Major content owners are introducing their own direct to consumer offerings (HBO Max, NBC’s Peacock, CBS Premiere, Disney+). At the same time, the growth of advertising-supported services including Roku, Pluto, and Tubi TV has provided a new way to watch movies and TV without renting or paying a subscription. Together, these new models are driving viewership from legacy cable to connected TV and powering connected TV ad impressions even further.
From the point of market share, this growth can seem to spell doom for mobile, but that sentiment overlooks what’s actually happening in the market. Mobile video ad impressions are forecasted to grow 22% next year in the U.S., according to eMarketer. More importantly, mass adoption of OTT streaming services as an alternative to cable will likely drive the growth of mobile well into the future. Historically, premium video had been “trapped” on the set top box. Subscribing to cable meant you could watch TV on the TV. If you were lucky, and your provider had great mobile apps, you could watch content there too, but there was often little interaction between the two platforms.
OTT services are different. Customers can move fluidly between screens based on whichever one is available to them at the time. Need to watch the game, but you’re at your kid’s (less exciting) game? No problem, just use the mobile TV in your pocket and sneak a peek. Did you fall asleep during the last 20 minutes of America’s Got Talent last night? Watch the recording where you left off while you’re on the train commuting to the office.
There’s simply no easier screen than the mobile screen. It’s the one in-pocket. That means mobile drives minutes spent, simply by providing easy access to premium and live content even when no TV or laptop is in sight. Connected TV and mobile aren’t at odds with one another: the increasing hours dedicated to the mobile viewing habit signal the increasing size of OTT’s hold on viewers’ attention.
The reality isn’t that new modes of delivery are cannibalizing one another -- it’s that viewers enjoy both modes in their daily life and this new normal will continue to evolve. Those playing in the advanced TV and streaming space shouldn’t be thinking about one or the other, but about how they can optimize both delivery systems to best serve their customer needs, especially as streaming wars heat up and viewers eschew traditional “set top box” TV in favor of ideal experiences for their increasingly mobile, ease-obsessed lifestyles. And while it’s best to be the most available screen -- the one in the pocket, so to speak -- it’s vital that we continue to focus on creating easy and utterly frictionless experiences, wherever viewers are spending more time than ever.