Has the World Cup hooked Americans on mobile video?
The World Cup has prompted many Americans to stay glued to their mobile screens to watch streaming video of the event live from South Africa, which might represent the tipping point of widespread adoption of mobile video. ESPN reported more than 8.2 million visits to its World Cup mobile web app in the first two days alone, including 555,000 video views. While publishers face challenges to implementing mobile video, the increased interest could represent more opportunity to capture audience and advertising for mobile video content.
A study by the U.K.-based media intelligence firm Screen Digest found that those watching the World Cup on their smartphones is helping to spur a 12.7% increase in mobile video subscriptions this year. The firm predicts that U.S. mobile video on demand (VOD) and mobile TV active subscribers are set to rise to 3.5 million in 2010, up from 3.1 million in 2009, and they will reach 5 million by 2014.
Big events such as the World Cup and the presidential election typically drive mobile video viewing, explains Ronan de Renesse, senior analyst for Screen Digest. “Sports and news have been the two categories of content that have driven the mobile TV market,” he says. “Only in the past six months have we really started to see other types of content.”
De Renesse predicts some subscribers will drop off after the World Cup, but others might be hooked on mobile video. De Renesse cites other reasons why mobile video viewing will continue to rise: the increasing number of smartphone users, the improving quality of video with advancements such as 4G, and the improving content made available by content providers. “It's really the role of the content provider to offer better content so that consumers keep watching,” he says.
At The Magazine Mobile Imperative conference in New York City, Pooja Midha, group vice president of business development for MTV Networks Digital, mentioned that MTVN will be putting more resources into mobile video, as MTVN expects mobile video usage to increase fivefold over the next five years. She said better video capabilities in smartphones will dramatically change the mobile viewing experience and further increase demand for mobile video.
MTVN leverages niche audiences interested in specific video content, such as bite-sized clips of The Daily Show. “We're seeing audiences gather there and we're able to actually take that and sell it to advertisers in a meaningful way,” she said. Despite her optimism, Midha noted that mobile video needs to mature and has limited scale for advertisers in comparison to WAP banner ads.
Advertising for mobile video has not yet caught up to produce revenues to offset content costs, according to Screen Digest. But that could change with a wider audience. “It's still early, so you can't really monetize an entire mobile video service just based on advertisers,” de Renesse says. "But there is great hope for mobile advertising in the future.”