Stop for a second and look around you. How many devices do you have that can stream video? A smartphone? A tablet? A desktop and/or laptop? Because everyone usually owns more than one streaming device, IHS predicts that the total amount of streaming devices in use will exceed the world population within the next few years. With 1.7 billion devices sold just in 2013, is it a big surprise? That's about a quarter of the global population already. IHS is predicting that there will be 8.2 billion installed units in 2017 and that will be a 90% increase from this year which they say is at about 4.3 billion.
Of course, that doesn't mean that every person will have a device, it just means that there will be so many they account for the have-nots. If I think about it I have four devices in the office: laptop, desktop, smartphone, iPad. On top of that I have two game consoles in the living room for a total of six streaming devices.
Growth Of Streaming Devices Highest In Asia-Pacific Region
IHS states that growth in North America and the Wester Hemisphere will be quite low, at about 10%, because of market saturation already. The big growth area will be the Asia-Pacific region which should see double that 2013 to 2017. China will account for much of the 1.9 billion devices that will be installed during the next few years.
Low-end growth will be the sub-Saharan region of Africa which is estimated to only add about 145 million units in the same time period.
The Challenge of Capturing an Audience
IHS talked about the challenge of capturing an audience for premium video content as it used to be that PCs took up a majority of the market, 93% in 2005 when YouTube launched, but now are just 23%. We all know that apps for specific platforms are great ways to capture and retain that audience, provided that the experience is a high quality one and the content is such that it keeps the audience coming back for more. Additionally, it's easier to monetize when you have a somewhat captive audience in your app as opposed to in a browser on a PC or laptop where multi-tasking begins drawing attention away from the advertising. With an app, I believe, you have a better chance of someone sticking through an ad to get to the content or the rest of the content that they want to see, especially VOD.
In 2017, IHS believes that smart TVs will be just 5% of connected devices and game consoles will be just 2% while mobile devices, including smartphones and tablets, will be the major portion with 67% of the market. Again, these are forecast numbers for 2017 by IHS for the entire world, not just North America or the US which accounts for the low percentages of smart TVs and game consoles. When you think about game consoles in the grand scheme of things it looks rather small. If we look at game consoles since 2005, which incidentally is the year that the Xbox 360 was released, there have been just around 350 million sold (handheld and home consoles) to date. That's enough to cover a 1:1 ratio of connected device to person in the USA. In terms of smart TVs, even less as per the chart below from TRi.
According to that there have been just about 170 million smart TVs shipped.
What's it all Mean?
It certainly doesn't mean you can discount game consoles and smart TVs in North America in terms of distributing video. It means that the streaming video landscape will continued to be as fractured as ever and that utilizing standard practices and open protocols that will allow the content to land on as many devices as possible is going to be an ongoing, major endeavor for video content creators and distributors. HTML5 is definitely helping move things forward with video viewing support across browsers and mobile platforms like iOS and Android (see our post on the recently updated State of HTML5). But I think the best way to make sure you have that audience you need is to build out a robust, easy-to-use, cohesive presence across all platforms in order to offer the best user experience possible along with the best content you can. That's what will draw in your audience and keep them coming back for more. The more restrictions on when, where or how they can access the content and the ability to find the content (or not find it) is going to make them look elsewhere for that content.