Mobile TV is for the young

Editorial director Brad Dick examines recent surveys about the usage of mobile technologies and Internet video and encourages broadcasters to consider the implications of consumers who demand content on their terms.
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I recently had the pleasure of spending about a week with my young adult niece as she visited me between college semesters. The visit turned out to be the perfect opportunity to learn how young people interact with technology. I was quickly surprised at the extent to which she was engaged with, knowledgeable about and reliant on portable devices and the media they held.

Over three days, I watched her replace her cell phone with a new one and then forge headlong into the upgrade and transfer process of moving her contacts, calendar, music and videos from the old phone to the new one. In addition, she replaced her broken laptop with a new one and moved the required content between them. Even for this geek, I was impressed with this young person's skill and familiarity with new technology and the tenacity to organize her information and entertainment on portable devices exactly as she wanted it.

This personal observation was the perfect sidebar to some research I've been doing on the use of mobile devices and Internet delivery of content.

The Pew Research Center recently concluded a project that examines how mobile access is changing the way people consume entertainment. Overall, 56 percent of American adults surveyed say they have connected to the Internet with a wireless device; 19 percent say they do so on a daily basis. That is a 73 percent increase since December 2007.

Thirty-nine percent of the adults surveyed have what could be called a symbiotic relationship with their portable devices. My niece was certainly a testament to that statistic. These young people have pushed beyond the wired and locked-down desktop experience and now embrace on-the-go connectivity. These folks expect to send and receive voice and text messages as well as entertainment at any time, in any place. My niece carried her new cell phone wherever she went, even within the house. I doubt she was ever out of earshot from her new phone — and her connected friends.

The research firm MediaCT says that between September 2008 and April 2009, the percent of users watching long-form streaming video (TV shows) doubled. The firm's study, MOTION, shows that 51 percent of Internet users between 18 and 24 have watched at least one TV show in the previous 30 days. That's up from 18 percent last September.

A Yahoo! survey shows that Internet video consumption peaks twice per day, between noon and 3 p.m. and again between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m. Echoing these numbers is a QUALCOMM study showing that mobile TV viewing spikes in the 1 p.m.-2 p.m. time slot. The company says an average daily viewer spends 30 minutes watching its FLO TV. Nielsen says 13 million wireless viewers are watching television on mobile devices. That's a 52 percent increase from last year.

So, why should you care? These statistics and observations of my niece's use of technology confirm to me that broadcasters have a limited window of opportunity to build themselves a niche in the mobile and Internet video space. Young audiences aren't going to wait for us to get our collective act together. These people will demand that media be delivered on their terms, on their schedules and on their selected portable devices. If broadcasters fail to provide content on those terms, they do so at great financial peril.

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