KEY POINTS

  • Mobile video continues its massive surge as users rapidly adopt tablets and smartphones as mainstream devices for video viewing. Tablets and smartphones now account for 15% of all online video hours watched. 
  • All the top platforms have succeeded in drawing in viewers, including Netflix, YouTube, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Instant Video.
  • Content is still king. But the shift to mobile is also causing programming to shift and adapt to new viewing habits. On smartphones, viewers flock to YouTube, Web serials, comedy and music. On tablets, viewers enjoy TV shows optimized for cross-device binge-viewing.
  • Netflix pursued an iPad-first strategy to become a mobile video pioneer. Today, the ability to watch Netflix across devices facilitates binge-watching. A reported 23% of all Netflix subscribers say they have watched on smartphones, and 15% have done so on iPads.
  • YouTube channels command surprisingly large mobile audiences. Machinima, one of the most-watched YouTube channels in the world, sees almost 50% of its video views come from mobile.
  • Hulu, Amazon Instant Video, and Vimeo are racing to differentiate themselves as purveyors of premium video. Hulu's subscription service showcases up-to-date TV episodes, Amazon Instant Video offers free video streams to Amazon Prime customers, and Vimeo is a community for filmmakers.
  • Each service is taking a unique approach to both content and monetization. Mobile video continues to be one of the few areas of the mobile industry that monetizes reliably.

Summary

Mobile video viewing has experienced a steady rise, and content providers can be credited with two important accomplishments: rolling out a rapidly expanding library of programming that's available cross-device, and adapting this programming so that it's more enjoyable on mobile.

This strategy has convinced even more viewers to watch on mobile.

According to Nielsen, an average of about 50 million people in the U.S., or 16% of the entire population, watched video on their mobile phones each month during the second quarter of 2013, up from 37 million during the same quarter a year ago.

And those numbers don't even include tablet viewers.

While still not a majority, it is incredible uptake for an activity that once seemed poorly suited to mobile devices.

On some video sites, like music video platform VEVO, mobile views have now reached parity with desktop views.

One of the unique features of Web video is the impressive amount of time spent [...]