Although TiVo and other digital video recording (DVR) devices allow us to watch our favorite TV shows whenever we want, they don’t let us do it wherever we want. With the power of streaming services, hi-speed internet and mobile devices combined, society is warming up to the idea of enjoying shows, movies and live sports outside of the household.
Despite all of the hype surrounding the rise of smartphone and tablet TV viewership, the fight between mobile devices and TV sets remains as lopsided as David v. Goliath. According to the Council for Research Excellence, 89% of TV viewers continued to watch their content on television sets in 2013. That statistic may paint a gloomy picture for mobile TV advocates, but it doesn’t indicate what’s going on beneath the canvas.
According to a Nielsen cross-platform TV report, traditional television viewership has plateaued, while mobile viewership continues to increase year over year. The number of Americans watching TV on a smartphone increased 36.5% between 2012 and 2013, while the number of traditional TV viewers actually dipped by .2%. Sure, there’s still a sizeable gap between the two TV consumption methods, but the numbers suggest traditional TV’s lead is on the verge of slipping.
In addition to the increase in consumers of mobile video content, there’s also a promising shift in how long they engage with their devices. A recent Ooyala report suggests that mobile devices are being used for a lot more than impromptu YouTube clips. The research showed that 57% of mobile viewers watch videos lasting ten minutes or longer, 19% of which was attributed to programs running over an hour. The study also suggested that live programming, such as sports broadcasts and award shows, made up the largest percentage of this long-form content.
Whether you’re a soccer fanatic or an Olympics enthusiast, you’re probably familiar with how frustrating it can be to wait all day for your cable provider to rebroadcast a long-awaited sporting event, only to have one of your Twitter followers or Facebook friends spoil the final results. With the increase in coverage and availability of live streams, this is becoming a horror story of the past.
NBC’s coverage of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics is a great example. By downloading their NBC Sports Live Extra app (available for iOS, Android and Windows phones and tablets), users gained mobile access to over 1,000 hours of live TV. Between their app and the NBCOlympic.com mobile site, there were 61.8 million unique users streaming Olympic events to their tablets. “Technology and time have changed things. The media landscape is evolving” explained the chairman of NBC Sports Group, Mark Lazarus.
The Olympics aren’t the only athletic competition encouraging people to pull out their tablets and smartphones. ESPN vice president Damon Phillips recently announced that the largest growth of ESPN3 and Watch ESPN app viewers came from mobile users, two thirds of which consumed the content outside of their home. And it wasn’t just popular sports like football and basketball bringing out the mobile audience. Many American viewers use the app for international sports like cricket and rugby, which are often hard to find on standard television channels.
ESPN isn’t the only cable network placing their bets on the mobile boom. A similar trend can be found on just about any channel with a youthful demographic. But don’t take my word for it, let Stephen Colbert explain why the new Comedy Central app is a must for any iPad, iPhone or 2003 Motorola Razr:
It seems Viacom is pandering to all of their youthful viewers, including the millennials and toddlers who regularly tune into Nickelodeon. The Nick App is actually available for even more devices than the Comedy Central app, with versions optimized for iOS, Android, Windows and Kindle Fire. If mobile truly is the future of television, Viacom has a big leg up on the rest of the competition.
The major networks aren’t letting nimbler cable networks steal all the mobile bandwidth. Fox offers comparable software for both the entire network and some individual shows. Their Fox Now app offers clips and full episodes of their most popular shows (The New Girl, Glee, Family Guy, The Following, etc), while their Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey app gives the classic science show a true 21st century reboot with full episodes and advanced features.
Try as they might, no TV network app can compare to the traffic-jamming juggernaut that is the HBO GO app. Whether it’s crashing during the season finale of True Detective or infuriating impatient fans during the season premier of Game of Thrones, HBO GO has no problem generating a big enough audience to make their mobile presence relevant. As much as HBO tries to differentiate their premium programing from traditional TV channels, there’s one incredibly annoying thing they all have in common; they require network provider verification. Although HBO has flirted with offering a cable-subscription-free service, those rumors continue to remain nothing more than empty promises.
Do you hear that? It’s the sound of thousands of cable subscribers “cutting the cord” in favor of over-the-top (OTT) content. Whether or not that term sounds familiar, anyone who has watched a rerun on Netflix or Hulu is already down with OTT (including me). In simple terms, OTT services deliver content directly to the user without the interference of a middleman like a cable or satellite company.
The downside is the lack of timely programming. Most content on OTT sites are delayed at least 24-hours from their original air date, leaving room for spoilers. The plus side is that many of these providers are beginning to offer original programming, giving mobile and internet viewers the upper hand. As more users flock to Netflix for House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, the onus will be on cable networks to compete with this a-la-carte TV strategy. And when you couple OTT with a digital media player like Chromecast, Apple TV, Roku or the hotly-anticipated Fire TV, things look even more bleak for the Comcasts and Time Warner Cables of the world.
It may be awhile before the major capable providers cower at the feet of their users and TV screens collect more dust than a trophy case, but times they are a changin. As our devices continue to become smarter, more content is made available at our fingertips and the FAA loosens their chokehold on electronic devices, people will be consuming TV shows and movies everywhere you turn. Just hope the viewer isn’t your pilot or driver.
Stay up to date with the latest in emerging technology by following us on Twitter.