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Mobile video - have the stars finally aligned?

In the early days of 4G, marketing campaigns were focused around the delivery of video content over mobile networks. But limited device capability, token networks covering only urban centres, little digital content available, and insufficient data caps to account for video usage, meant that despite some mobile operators launching video services to promote their speedier mobile data networks, they initially saw limited uptake and usage of video. 

Fast-forward to 2017 and all of the elements that were lacklustre in the early 4G era have matured, and have largely been addressed. 
  • 4G networks now cover well over 90% of the population in most European markets, and in some cases, offer data speeds exceeding those provided by fixed networks. 
  • Almost all content producers have a digital presence and there is a plethora of standalone subscription-video-on-demand (SVoD) services. 
  • Smartphones have taken great leaps forward over the past seven years, and now feature large, high-resolution screens with an expansive selection of video apps available.
  • An increasing number of operators are addressing the data cap issue by offering zero-rating video services (usually at a lower resolution), and some are even throwing in access to top SVoD services as part of postpaid plans.
These combined elements have led to a substantial increase in mobile video consumption. In our twice-yearly Consumer surveys, we have observed an increase in daily smartphone video viewing over the past two and a half years. In Poland and the USA, mobile operators with mobile video initiatives showed significantly higher daily video engagement than others. In Q3 2017, 23% of respondents taking a mobile service from Poland’s Play (which offers zero-rating on its PlayNow service and year of Showmax access) viewed online video on their smartphones daily, a 40% over-index against the national average. In the USA, 43% of respondents taking a mobile service from T-Mobile USA (which zero-rates most video services) viewed online video daily, a 40% over-index over the national average. In Germany, Deutsche Telekom had the lowest rate of daily smartphone video usage in Germany among mobile operators, but thanks to its Q1 2017 launch of video zero-rating program, StreamOn, it has caught up with its competitors, now registering higher usage than the national average.