Mobile Video Begins to Challenge the TV Status Quo


Mobile video is coming into its own, if Mobile World Congress 2015 is any indicator—and it spells a major transformation for the traditional television business. Already, several operators are rolling out personalized video offerings around the globe that promise to compete with, if not replace, mass-market cable offerings when it comes to both advertising dollars and eyeballs. And, LTE Broadcast is starting to roll out.

In general, the mobile video reality is beginning to take shape thanks to underlying macro trends: the availability of ubiquitous high speed mobile data services, an expanding array of video-enabled apps and social media, and the accepted use of smaller screens as second-screen home televisions.

"The concept of 'watching television' is being redefined," noted TDG senior analyst Joel Espelien, "transforming from a social medium characterized by groups of viewers sitting in front of the living room television, to an individual medium defined by solitary viewers watching programs on smaller, more personal devices such as tablets and smartphones."

Mobile Video Viewing by the Numbers

Research from TDG has predicted that mobile video viewing on smartphones and tablets will explode in the next 10 years, taking eyeballs away from both legacy TV and PC-based broadband video viewing. By the end of 2025, the firm said that mobile video will likely account for more than a fifth of total video viewing minutes among US consumers.

This “mobitransformation” is already being seen when it comes to the use of video apps. Most mobile video usage is primarily done in-home, rather than viewing while on the go. "Close to 80 percent of tablet viewing and 50 percent of smartphone viewing takes place in the home,” Espelien said. “It's less about 'mobile viewing' as commonly imagined and more about the individualization and personalization of TV itself.”

At the same time, advertising and consumption data from Ooyala’s recently acquired ad-tech company Videoplaza shows that mobile viewing has grown 16 times since 2011, and 34 percent of all video plays in Q4 were on tablets and smartphones. And, ad impressions are following suit.

For broadcasters and publishers, mobile saw high percentage of video ad impressions compared to all other devices; and tablets have the highest ad completion rates for broadcasters, followed by PCs and mobile phones.

Lest we relegate mobile viewing to simply “snacking” or clips of cats and goats on social media, long-form videos becoming more popular in the viewing environment. Ooyala says that tablet users spend most of their time (70%) watching video longer than 10 minutes.

Operators Ramp up TV Everywhere

One of the first commercial rollouts of the mobile video trend is the expansion of TV Everywhere, which is being embraced by cable, IPTV and satellite providers as a way to offer subscription video to customers as a value add. It’s become an extremely common offering, but so far, subscribers haven’t taken to these purpose-built mobile apps from pay-TV providers in any kind of real numbers. But some are working to build differentiators into their platforms in an effort to change that.

For instance, major telco and IPTV provider Telefónica said at MWC 2015 that it is introducing its mobile TV platform, Movistar TV GO, on devices with Windows Phone OS, following an agreement with Microsoft.

Critically, it integrates Microsoft’s Siri competitor, Cortana, into the video service, so Telefónica users can search for linear and on-demand by simply speaking into the phone. The service is being tested in a Spanish language beta version to ensure perfect consumer interaction, since the app will be available first in Spain and then in the Latin American countries where Telefónica is offering pay-TV services.

"The availability of our television services on mobile devices increases the attractiveness and potential for enjoyment of the content we offer to our users, and places Telefónica at the forefront of video products with an offer of TV everywhere which is increasingly diverse," said Michael Duncan, CEO of Telefónica's global video unit.

Meanwhile, French telco Orange said that it intends to take LTE to 85 percent of the Spanish population throughout 1,300 cities, including every town with over 10,000 inhabitants. The goal is to push additional services, like Orange TV's TV Everywhere, mobile and multiscreen platform, to subscribers of the company's convergent packages. The effort will be supported by Samsung and LG tablets, smartphones, smart TV and computers.

Mobile OTT

Scenting an opportunity (and, no doubt, not wanting to be caught behind on the movement away from traditional pay-TV), some operators are starting to launch mobile video services over the top (OTT), available as standalone subscriptions.

For instance, at MWC 2015 MTN Côte d'Ivoire revealed that it has teamed up with France's Summview to launch a mobile video service, offering a range of live TV and on-demand content for users of Android-based smartphones and tablets. The initial launch phase includes five international channels: France 24, Al Jazeera, Trace Africa, BBLACK and Tiji.

It’s a true OTT service, so users have the option to subscribe to the new service for a day, a week or a month.

"With MTN TV, MTN Côte d'Ivoire expands its range of services and mobile applications and provides its subscribers with an innovative offering of quality content, information as well as entertainment on mobile. The 'one stop shop' offer of Summview allowed mastering the costs and securing the roll-out," said Wim Vanhelleputte, CEO of MTN Côte d'Ivoire. "By deploying this new service, MTN continues its actions to offer its customers a new digital world and contributes to the emergence of a digital Ivory Coast."

Also, Netflix said at the show that it will partner with Vodafone to launch a 4G mobile video streaming service in New Zealand this month. Vodafone New Zealand feels that it’s a good move: recent research highlighted that 41% of its Kiwi customers stream content at least once a month.

To sweeten the pot, Vodafone New Zealand will provide Netflix free for six months if new or existing customers sign up for a Red+ mobile plan.

"New Zealanders are showing us just how much great mobile content has become part of their everyday said Matt Williams, consumer director at Vodafone NZ. "We know how excited Kiwis are about the arrival of Netflix, and are delighted to be partnering with the Netflix team to launch in the home of The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug,"

Closer to home, Verizon has talked about trials for an OTT subscription mobile service, likely launching in the second half of this year.

LTE Broadcast Takes Shape

One barrier to the widespread adoption of mobile video outside of the home or absent a home broadband connection is the quality of the underlying networks that are delivering it. A choppy user experience and buffering is a sure-fire way to turn consumers off of long-form mobile consumption. But going forward, the LTE Broadcast project is aiming to give operators the potential to deliver new revenue sources with efficient mobile video that doesn’t tax existing 4G networks as much as existing streaming approaches do.

 Based on Evolved Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service (eMBMS) standards, LTE Broadcast delivers the same stream of content to multiple users, eliminating network capacity constraints, delivering higher quality video and reduced latency compared to a unicast delivery.

Current LTE Broadcast applications have been trialed in stadiums with live sporting events (notably last summer at the World Cup), which allowed audiences to view the video in real time without taking up a lot of network capacity. LTE Broadcast can also extend into push video-on-demand (VOD) delivery, targeted advertising, and subscription-based services.

"We view LTE Broadcast as a natural progression of wireless delivery technology that will provide consumers with the ability to enjoy premium content anywhere and on any device," said Wayne Purboo, CEO at Quickplay, which is working with Qualcomm Technologies on a platform to commercialize the technology. “[We want to] enable operators around the world the ability to provide innovative services with the goal of attaining seamless viewing experiences.”

Ericsson used MWC 2015 to join with Facebook, the GSA, the GSMA, INDYCAR, Intel, KPN, Qualcomm Technologies, Verizon and Telstra to share best practices in broadcast over 4G LTE networks. The group showcased a number of LTE Broadcast live demos with new use cases and functionalities.

"The principal objective of the user group is to share the best practices that will spur industry growth and widespread adoption as we enter a new era of personalized media content," explained GSMA senior director of technology, Dan Warren. "Users want anytime, anywhere, any-device access to their media and entertainment and LTE Broadcast can be a key technology to enable delivery of popular content in an optimal way. It can relieve some of the heavy traffic burden that operators would otherwise have to support."

In one example, Telstra and Ericsson announced that starting in May 2015, Telstra will be progressively enabling permanent LTE Broadcast channels at key venues and major events, initially for testing and then for customer access on compatible devices during 2015. Current LTE Broadcast trials run by Telstra and Ericsson in Australia have shown that three or four channels of video can be efficiently streamed along with complementary data channels. This traffic used as little as 10 percennt of the 20MHz carrier to cover all users, they said—and the adoption of High Efficiency Video Coding (HEVC) compression further improves network efficiency and potential picture quality.

"We have completed a number of successful LTE Broadcast trials and seen first-hand the benefits to our network and how it enhances the delivery of high quality content during large scale events," said Telstra Group managing director networks Mike Wright. "We are now excited about the possibilities it will provide once the capability is deployed across our network."

Also in the region, Ericsson is teaming with Singtel for the first trial of video delivery with LTE Broadcast will be at the 28th South East Asian (SEA) Games which will be held in Singapore in June 2015.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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