Does mobile pose a threat to TV?

Audiences appear to be increasingly consuming video on their mobile devices. What does that mean for TV?

A few weeks ago, we posted a blog asking if video streaming spelled the end of the TV industry as we know it. We concluded that TV would survive – even thrive – as long as it adapts and innovates. But the medium is not just fighting a battle on one front: mobile is another contender for the throne.

The mobile decade

Arguably, nothing has changed the face of media consumption – and therefore advertising – over the last decade as much as mobile. The statistics are familiar: in many developed countries, smartphone penetration is at around 70%, and mobile connection statistics tell a similar story: in 2008, there were 4.02 billion mobile connections globally, while in 2018 this had more than doubled to 8.53 billion – and in 2020 the figure is projected to be 9.02 billion. Human beings are duly becoming more reliant on their phones: in the UK for example, people spend around 24 hours a week on them, on average, and check them every 12 minutes, and this trend is reflected around the world. The mobile phone has replaced the television as the media device that we most miss; in 2007, 52% most missed the TV, while 13% missed their phone the most. 11 years later, the figures were 28% and 46% respectively.

A bleak future for TV?

Indeed, you could be forgiven for believing that the growth of mobile means a bleak future for linear TV. The young, mobile generation are increasingly tending to stream video content instead of watching traditional linear TV, and often do so on a mobile device. Many tech companies have noted this and are acting upon it: in June, CBS announced that it will be streaming NFL games on mobile devices from this autumn, while, shortly after closing their acquisition of Time Warner, AT&T announced the launch of their new mobile streaming service, Watch TV. These services will no doubt be popular, thanks in part to the smaller ad load for content streamed on a mobile.

TV is still the most popular medium for video consumption

However, Nielsen data released this week suggests that mobile is not denting TV’s success as much as it seems. Of 5.57 hours a day that US adults spent watching video in quarter one of this year, 4.46 of those were on live or time-shifted TV, while only 15 minutes were on a smartphone or tablet. Young people aged 18-34 were the only demographic who spent longer on a tablet or smartphone consuming general content (not just video) than on a TV. What’s more, even those households that don’t have a traditional TV don’t rely on their mobile devices to watch TV programming: 27% use a computer and 30% go elsewhere (to a friend’s or public place), compared to 16% using a mobile device.

TV versus mobile in the future

Will this change as the young, mobile generation grow older and take their mobile habits with them, replacing the more stagnant habits of older people? Or will they change their habits as they age to reflect those of their parents? Will increasing concern around mobile addiction and interest in digital detoxes encourage people to put their phones down and switch their attention to television? Time will answer all these questions, but we believe that TV is here to stay. One commentator said that ‘mobile is a wart on the ass of TV’: while we think that mobile is more significant in the video space than that, we can’t imagine that consumers will transform viewing habits so much that they will choose en masse to watch long-form content on a mobile over their television. TV is safe for now but, as always, needs to innovate and adapt to stay ahead of the game.

Thumbnail image: Lolostock/Shutterstock.com

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