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TV goes home, even when mobile

Take one screen into the living room?

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Mobile video consumption is far from mobile, if the latest US survey is to be believed, with three-quarters of video consumption taking place within the home.

The survey comes from Nielsen, and was commissioned by the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) to see if portable video is driving viewers away from TV. Turns out it isn't: they're just consuming multiple video streams at the same time, which is still bad news for the advertisers.

The survey questioned almost 1,500 mobile video users, 63 per cent of whom said they'd be a lot less interested if they had to pay for the content. But those questioned also said that despite consuming video on their phones, and tablets, they still watched the same quantity of TV – which begs the question of how they find the time.

The suggestion is that viewers are turning to their devices for entertainment during the ad breaks, watching a YouTube video or two while the big screen is trying to sell them stuff. That's good news for Google, but bad news from the TV advertisers who are losing the eyeballs they need to pay for the programmes.

The CTAM points to cross-platform content as a possible solution. Sync-to-TV is the flavour of the month right now: mobile apps which use the device microphone to present content synchronised to what's happening on TV (even if the TV show is recorded or a repeat). The CTAM reckons users love the duel-screen experience, and it keeps them loyal during the advert breaks too.

The preponderance of home use mirrors what European operators found when testing mobile broadcast TV. Trials in the UK and Italy found that more than 30 per cent of the viewing was done in the home, less the the US study but this was broadcast programmes rather than YouTube clips. Those figures were attributed to children watching video in their rooms, and partners watching in bed.

Nielsen also found more than half of its respondents were watching mobile video in the car, though that figures drops to 31 per cent for tablets – perhaps because they're harder to balance on the steering wheel. Given the predominance of single-occupancy cars in the US we're guessing this is mostly children again, watching from the back seat.

Similarly low figures apply for video watched while commuting, in contrast to Japan which had mobile video early and considers commuters to be a significant market – though the dominance of public transport is probably more important there.

The fact that so much video is consumed in the home is important for network operators, who can see their traffic offloaded to Wi-Fi networks or femtocells. But they'll have to use the latter if they want to keep control over (and make money out of) what their customers are watching. ®

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