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The Increasing Importance of Mobile and a Cross-Platform Strategy

July 29, 2020

The modern OTT experience is evolving at a rapid pace, and as viewers watch more and more video-on-demand, they are watching in countless new ways. These days, the average viewer will watch across several different devices over the course of a single day—laptops, desktops, smartphones, tablets, and CTVs—and the ability to watch seamlessly wherever they go is of the utmost importance. Mobile is a huge part of this. 

Mobile video is the piece that connects all OTT experiences. While CTVs and PCs require users to be stationary and have a suitable wifi connection, mobile allows viewers to watch wherever they go, whether that’s the kitchen, the garage, in line at the grocery store, or on a train. That’s why, data shows, mobile video consumption has become a huge part of viewers’ lives and is becoming increasingly important for OTT providers to get right. 

Smartphones are the number one device for watching online video (Limelight) and you might assume this all comes from social media platforms like YouTube and TikTok. But data also proves that OTT plays a big part in this mobile viewing. According to Conviva, mobile accounts for 23% of all OTT viewing hours. Plus, hours spent watching video on mobile is growing, especially in the America’s, where there was a 71% increase in mobile streaming hours from Q4 2018 to Q4 2019. 

It’s important to remember when the data says “mobile accounts for 23% of OTT viewing hours” that this is very different than saying “23% of OTT viewers.” Because the reality is that the majority of viewers are each watching content across a variety of devices throughout the day or week. In fact, globally, 66% of digital video viewers use a smartphone to watch video. This has significant implications for OTT providers. 

Mobile video is fraught with problems. Penthera’s own research has shown that, across the globe, 90% of viewers say the mobile viewing experience is frustrating. Mobile devices are often in and out of connectivity, making mobile video particularly vulnerable to last mile issues like startup delays, buffering, and low quality. These can be exacerbated by wifi or cellular connections that are intermittent, unreliable, insecure, expensive, or unavailable altogether. Our research shows that people have little patience for these issues, and when they encounter mobile streaming problems, 54% will abandon the stream, 22% will stop using the service altogether, and 15% will write a negative app store review.

Despite this, many OTT providers don’t prioritize perfecting the mobile video experience for their viewers—either because they don’t understand how poor it is or because they don’t think mobile is that big a deal. Many keep CTVs at the top of their roadmap, trying to make an experience that’s better than traditional TV so more people will cut the cord. But TVs are just one part of the OTT puzzle at this point. If you synthesize the data above and estimate that a significant portion of your users are viewing your content on mobile 1 in 4 times they watch at minimum, the frustrations of mobile video become clearly related to churn, shorter sessions, and overall bad branding. 

A viewer doesn’t distinguish a provider across devices. If they have a poor experience on your mobile app, they will still think of your service as frequently frustrating, even if it’s always perfect when they watch on their CTV or PC. A cross-platform strategy is critical to keeping users happy and to preventing churn. In 2020, it’s not enough to be better than TV. Cord cutting is already here, and now OTT providers have to compete with each other to get traction and grow and retain their user base. The ones with the best experience across all devices, including mobile, are the ones who will be best positioned to win.


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