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  • Writer's picturePenthera

How 2020 Dismantled the Biggest Myth About Mobile Video

2020 has been a year of unprecedented change, but luckily also one of unprecedented learning. At Penthera, we got some incredible insight this year that validated something we’ve long thought to be true—but didn’t have the data to prove. And that’s that the industry’s perception of mobile video downloading as a feature primarily used by viewers in transit is completely wrong.

During the first wave of COVID-19, travel plummeted as flights were cancelled and people even stopped commuting to work. In the past, many have thought of flying and commuting as the only time a viewer would want to watch downloaded content instead of streaming, as these are the most notable environments that are devoid of reliable wifi or cellular service. And yet, during this same period of lockdowns—as travel halted—the number of devices downloading videos from our customers’ apps actually grew.

The chart below shows this, using Penthera, TSA, and transit data.

This demonstrates clearly that there are other (more popular) use cases for downloading videos than travel. Downloading content is a popular way to ensure you don’t encounter the issues that streaming video causes: low quality, lag, buffering, or a complete inability to watch. These problems frequently arise when a viewer has imperfect connectivity, but since downloaded content doesn’t need a network, it can be viewed in high quality and without risk of interruption. With networks strained during lockdown and home wifi connections overwhelmed with families all home watching content at the same time, it makes sense that many viewers took to downloading to help them watch seamlessly.

In fact, according to Limelight’s State of Digital Lifestyles 2019 Report, 25.8% of users around the globe prefer downloading video to streaming. Other research has found that 35% of U.S. viewers watch downloaded videos at home while 15% do so at work. Plus, Penthera’s customer data has revealed that 80% of downloaded videos are actually played when the device is online. So the growth of downloading during lockdowns may come as a surprise, but it’s actually consistent with findings we’ve seen about user behavior in recent years.

The increase in mobile downloading, specifically, also highlights another misconception: that people don’t watch much mobile video at home. But that’s not really the case. According to a survey conducted by Adjust, 47% of people say they use their phones for streaming more frequently since social distancing, with only 7% saying they use it less. Hours spent streaming video have increased across the board in 2020, but it’s not just because people are sitting in front of their CTVs. Mobile is a regular part of how viewers consume streaming video, including OTT content.

After the television set, the mobile device is the second most popular, with nearly a quarter of time spent using OTT on phones. “For mobile marketers, the innovative potential of OTT opens up even larger possibilities for interaction between the TV screen and the mobile device,” says Dr. Gijsbert Pols, a product strategist at Adjust. For instance, Roku, the main TV device supplier in the US, already allows people to use their smartphones as remote controls. “This paves the way for enticing consumers to interact with the brands they see advertised on their TV via their mobile phone,” Pols explains.

A mobile strategy is important for providers who want to compete across devices, and a download feature is a must-have for any video streaming app. In fact, all the services on Parks’ list of the top 10 US subscription OTT services of Q3 2020 all offer mobile downloading.

Though increases during lockdown have put a spotlight on how users stream and download video, the OTT industry is expected to continue to grow even after things get back to normal—and the competition will be fiercer than ever.


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