According to the latest report from Ooyala, 46% of all video plays in Q4 2015 were on mobile devices like tablets and smartphones. In fact, tablet and smartphone video consumption grew 35% in the past year and have grown 170% since 2013. So, video marketers might assume that mobile devices are driving the trends in the digital video marketing business. But, it’s actually the Millennials who are using these mobile devices who are forcefully driving the action in digital video.

Ooyala calls the Millennial generation the "Cord-nevers....the mobile-first generation", and states that they are a "distinctly global generation, sharing more similarities than generations before them, and they’re driving us to a digital homogeneity that is distinctly mobile.”

For example, Millennials are significantly change engagement patterns by device and long-form video:

  • For the second quarter in a row, 69% of all videos watched on smartphones were under 10 minutes long. On the flip side, that means that nearly one-third of smartphone videos watched were longer than 10 minutes — Millennials are at it again.
  • Larger screens continue to get the lion’s share of video views for content over 10 minutes long, with that format making up 74% of all video watched on connected TVs (CTV) in the fourth quarter.
  • Tablet use for content 10–30 minutes in length grew for the third consecutive quarter to 21%, the most of any device for content of that length, indicating that the devices remain a favorite of users watching episodic television.

Share of Mobile Video: 2084% Increase in 5 Years

So, what should video marketers do in order to harness these trends? Well, few things have been as constant in the past four years of the digital video revolution as the rise of mobile video consumption around the world. As Ooyala’s report shows, the fourth quarter of 2015 was no different. As I mentioned above, mobile video plays increased 35% in the quarter to nearly 46% of all plays, up from 34% a year ago; over the past two years, plays on mobile phones and tablets are up 170% from 17% in 2013. Need a bigger number? How about this: Since 2011, mobile video plays (smartphones and tablets combined) have a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 116%. That pushes the share of mobile video plays up a stunning 2,084% over the past five years.

rise of mobile video 2015

Smartphones Driving Mobile Video Consumption

Of course, the biggest driver of mobile video consumption has been the smartphone, which is routinely used more often than tablets. In Q4, video was played on smartphones more than 6X as often as on tablets. A year ago, smartphone plays outnumbered tablet plays nearly 5X. Cisco, in its latest Visual Networking Index, forecast a further 8X increase of mobile traffic by 2020, saying it expected video to comprise 75% of all Internet traffic by then.

A couple of years ago, it seemed in vogue to question whether (name the big TV event) would generate enough traffic to “break the Internet.” An Olympics, a World Cup and a Super Bowl later, it’s obvious the technology that makes the Internet happen is more than able to adapt to increased demand. Now, of course, the “new” concern is “how will mobile networks survive?” Interestingly, before 4G LTE networks have even become ubiquitous, a number of operators already are ramping up trials of 5G networks, which have a reported 10X to 100X the capacity of the existing 4G networks. Cisco also said it expects global mobile network speeds to more than triple to 6.5 Mbps by 2020.

The Bigger the Screen the Better

Some 50% of all video views were mobile in Q4 and – although its growth may be slowing – it will continue for years. For content owners, the reality is that your audience is slowly moving away from you, evolving into one that demands your best content anywhere, on any device and at any time. Your best bet? Make that viewing experience as simple, hassle-free and flexible as you can. But wait, there’s more!

There’s a common cliché in our industry that says the bigger the screen, the better. Well, it may be cliché, but it’s also true. According to Ooyala’s latest report, the biggest screens, connected televisions, have seen their share of time watched for content longer than 10 minutes increase steadily over the past year. From Q1’s 43%, to Q2’s 53%, Q3’s 71% and Q4’s 74%, a growth of more than 72% over 12 months. On tablets, meanwhile, the share of time watched for the same content has declined slightly to 54% in Q4 from 55% in Q3 and 59% in Q1. Computers had a share of time watched of 38% for content longer than 10 minutes, essentially flat for the quarter; the share has been vacillating between 35% and 40% for the entire year. And mobile phones rang up a share of time watched of 31%, the same as in Q3.

Computers’ share of time watched for 0 to 3 minutes was 43%, followed by mobile phones (40%), tablets (24%) and CTVs (20%), reinforcing viewing trends that have been in place for several quarters. In other words, small screens and computers remain the screens of choice for video vignettes, movie trailers and content like music videos.

But mobile phones remained the device of choice for watching short video content under 10 minutes. For the second quarter in a row, 69% of all videos watched on smartphones were under 10 minutes long, a slight increase since the beginning of 2015. Tablet share of time watched for content 10-30 minutes in length grew for the third consecutive quarter to 21%, the most of any device for that length of content. Computers also increased their share of time watched for longer content over 30 minutes. It was the third consecutive quarter of growth for computers.

Ooyala long-form video

Brands Need a 'Mobile First Strategy'

Recent research says Millennials are twice as likely to be focused on video they watch on their mobile devices as they are on video consumed on a TV. That’s a message brands need to recognize and embrace: You may be able to reach your audience of today – Gen Xers and Baby Boomers – via traditional media, but to reach your future customers, the buyers who will build your business, you need a mobile-first strategy that can be executed at scale.

Content continues to flow online and to all devices. Increasingly, much of it is long-form premium content that, at the demand of consumers, is being delivered over the top. Everything from episodic TV to longer dramas, movies, news and sports has become regular fare online. Still, a vast amount of short-form content is being consumed on mobile devices, an almost made-to-order delivery system that better matches up with modern lifestyles.

The price of data is coming down, and operators increasingly are designing new ways to deliver more content without eating up subscribers’ data. U.S. operators AT&T and Verizon, for example, are experimenting with sponsored content, where content owners pay to offset a user’s data consumption, and SVOD companies like Netflix continue to develop bandwidth-saving codecs to better compress content, again being sensitive to viewers’ pocketbooks.

As more quality content comes online from broadcasters, via operator initiatives and from content owners going direct to consumers, competition for eyeballs will ramp up and “easy” engagement will disappear. Now, more than ever, data and predictive analytics will be crucial to measuring viewer engagement and minimizing churn.