A Portrait of American Mobile Video Viewing

In early June, IAB released an extensive new research study, “Mobile Video 2015: A Global Perspective” that compared survey data on smartphone video viewers from 24 countries around the world.

The report highlighted shared characteristics as well as aspects where particular countries or regions showed distinct traits. Drawing from that dataset, this column highlights some trends around what mobile video American viewers are watching, how they find it, and how it relates to other screens.

What and How Often We Watch

U.S. viewers were on par with most of the other countries in our study as far as frequent short-form video viewing — 57 percent watch short videos (defined as five minutes or less) at least daily. By contrast, American mobile video viewers fell on the low side for long-form video viewing frequency, with 26 percent viewing such videos at least daily (the sample average was 35 percent).


This is still an eye-opener for those who believe mobile video is strictly a short-form phenomenon. Half of U.S. video viewers said they watch more smartphone video now than a year ago, the highest percentage in the two dozen countries we studied. When we asked U.S. viewers what would encourage them to watch even more mobile video, four responses clustered at the top of the list:

• Good picture quality (41 percent)

• Fast video buffering/streaming (41 percent)

• Video content that is free (40 percent)

• Good sound quality (40 percent)

In terms of video genres, music videos led in the U.S., viewed by 57 percent of respondents. Short clips and viral videos and movie trailers were almost equal (55 percent each). Similar numbers of video viewers watched short clips of TV shows as watch full episodes (32 percent versus 29 percent) and slightly over one in five reported watching a full-length movie on their smartphone. Comparatively speaking, American smartphone TV viewing is above average, though Canada, China, Denmark, and Finland outpaced the U.S.

How We Find It

Social media is a very important source of video where American viewers watch. Almost one-third of U.S. mobile video viewers looked to social media platforms as a source of smartphone video they view. The only channel more important than that is going straight to YouTube, cited by 63 percent (the most frequently selected option).

By contrast, search was relatively unimportant, cited by only 19 percent of U.S. smartphone viewers a regular source of videos they watch.

Media companies need to continually up their game when it comes to leveraging social media, and should be encouraging people to share mobile video they like. While not every video can or should go viral, social media forms a vital conduit for video seeking a mobile audience.

Relating to Other Screens

Mobile video does not exist in a vacuum, and some of the most interesting questions related mobile video content and ads to those on other screens.

On the positive side, marketers are beginning to follow their audiences. Seventy-four percent of U.S. smartphone video viewers said they often or sometimes see ads they’ve seen on TV while watching mobile video. This suggests not only are advertisers including mobile video in their omni-channel media plans, but also that viewers notice that. We believe ads seen across multiple platforms are more impactful than ads seen in just one medium, so this bodes well.

On the challenging side, one in four said they watch less TV due to smartphone video. While that’s not a vast number yet (impact is higher in China and Singapore), it underscores the need for the industry to devise better ways to earn revenue from mobile video.


One last note relates to “dual screening.” A hefty 65 percent of U.S. mobile video viewers sometimes or often watch video on their smartphones while watching TV – on a par with the 64 percent in the UK, and the highest in the 24 markets we examined. This is a little surprising: while it’s common to use one’s mobile device while watching TV, the conventional wisdom is that it’s not to have a second video screen going alongside the first one. Understanding the omni-channel world is vital for media companies and advertisers alike and we hope research like this helps provide answers — even as it raises some provocative new questions about video viewers’ time, preferences, and attention.

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