​Social networking drives video streaming growth

This could be the year streaming video overtakes traditional linear TV viewing for the first time, according to the latest Ericsson Mobility Report. Video consumption is increasingly being driven by the popular social media sites, especially Twitter and Facebook through recommendation, and is also accounting for a growing proportion of online content such as news and adverts.

The growth in streaming video consumption is being propelled generally by rising penetration of tablets and large smartphones along with better picture quality within OTT and mobile TV services, according to Ericsson. The Swedish communications technology group estimated there are now 2.7 billion smartphone subscribers worldwide, up by 800 million or 40% on the 1.9 billion in 2013. By 2020, 90 percent of the world's population over 6 years old will have a mobile phone, and smartphone subscriptions are expected to top 6.1 billion.

But while the smartphone boom will continue the fizz is already going out of the tablet market. Ericsson did not give any numbers but a tailing off in tablet growth has been noted by two other analyst groups, Gartner and eMarketer. The tablet market enjoyed double digit growth every year from 2011 until 2014 according to Gartner, but began to slow down and will only expand 8% in 2015 to reach 233 million units. eMarketer also notes a slowdown and predicts this will continue over the next few years, with both groups attributing this to saturation in developed markets combined with longer replacement cycles compared with smartphones, exacerbated by failure on the part of tablet makers to offer sufficient differentiation between successive product ranges. Partly for this last reason some of the slack in the tablet market is being taken up by a new category of “skinny” laptops. These combine the lightness, fast boot up and touch screen operation of the tablet with the keyboard and office productivity features of the laptop.


Cisco predicts video will account for 72 per cent of mobile data by 2019.

Cisco predicts video will account for 72 per cent of mobile data by 2019.

This all adds up to a massive increase in ownership of TV capable mobile devices and huge growth in video consumption on them. Further fuel for mobile video growth is being provided by continuing roll out off 4G/LTE cellular networks supporting higher data rates. According to the Ericsson survey, LTE technology achieved the highest rate of additions compared with 3G and 2G for the first time in the fourth quarter of 2014, with 110 million new 4G subscribers.

As a result mobile video will become increasingly dominant, with Ericsson forecasting it will grow by around 45 percent annually through to 2020. It is already pretty dominant, having exceeded 50 per cent of all mobile data for the first time in 2012, according to Cisco’s Visual Network Index (VNI) Global Mobile Data Traffic forecast. This rose to 55 per cent by the end of 2014 and will push on to 72 per cent by 2019, according to Cisco. This is against a backdrop of rapidly proliferating mobile data generally, which Cisco predicts will increase by almost an order of magnitude from 30 exabytes (an exabyte is 1018 bytes or 1 billion GB) in 2014 to 292 exabytes in 2019. Cisco also predicts continuing rapid rise in consumption of video clips from YouTube and other such sites, to reach 6 trillion per year in 2019, or about three per day per mobile user. By 2019 there will be 5.2 billion mobile users, up from 4.3 billion in 2014 and representing 69 percent of the world's estimated 7.6 billion population by that time. There would be 11.5 billion mobile-ready devices, including 8.3 billion personal mobile devices and 3.2 billion M2M (Machine to Machine) connections, compared with 7.4 billion total mobile-ready devices and M2M connections in 2014. At the same time average mobile speeds will continue to increase with rising LTE penetration, up 2.4 times from 1.7 Mbps in 2014 to 4.0 Mbps in 2019.

Ericsson has noted how the tide towards mobile video is being reflected in the nature of the apps dominating the devices. Based on a detailed analysis of three countries, the US, Spain and South Korea, Ericsson found that two-thirds of app data traffic over mobile networks comes from the top five apps in each of the three countries, with video streaming and social networking dominating and reinforcing each other. Facebook is top in each country, but in the US Netflix and YouTube between them accounted for 27% of mobile app usage by data volume in 2014.

This trend is creating increasing synergy between social media and TV beyond merely the fact that people engage in the former while watching the latter. The number of people using social media while watching TV passed the 50 per cent mark in 2012 in developed markets by most counts but now the activities are increasingly entwined, with each driving growth in the other. 

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