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Longer-form video is capturing attention on mobile screens across the globe - IAB study

Survey of mobile video viewers in 24 countries shows one in five regularly stream video on smartphones while watching traditional TV. Majority surveyed in each country favours tailoring of mobile video advertising
Longer-form video is capturing attention on mobile screens across the globe - IAB study

Contrary to popular opinion, mobile screens are regularly being tapped for streaming longer-form video, according to "Mobile Video Usage: A Global Perspective," a new comprehensive survey of consumers from 24 countries around the world who watch smartphone video, published today by the global Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). South Africa recorded the second highest 42% year-on-year increase in the viewing of video on smartphones, tying with New Zealand and Canada and surpassing the UK (40%). The country with the most prominent uptick in video on their smartphones was the United States (50%).

"As the IAB SA, we're delighted with South Africa's inclusion in this global research study by the IAB. The overall findings underpin many conversations and opinion pieces of late, pointing to the change in audience consumption and ever increasing use of smart devices to stream video content. South Africa's claim of the second highest year-on-year increase from the 24 countries surveyed somewhat contradicts the ever-present reference to limited broadband access and further illustrates that SA has a burgeoning online video consumption market, ripe for engagement," says Gustav Goosen, Head of Research Council for IAB SA. "We look forward to South Africa's participation in the next global study and we're expecting the SA market to feature even more prominently in the key findings."

A trend towards watching more video content on mobile phones, ultimately impacts the actual content that is being watched and how long it is watched for. Thirty-six percent of the total respondents said they watch videos that are five-minutes or longer on their phones daily or more frequently. Smartphone video viewers in Turkey, Finland, China, Russia and Singapore are particularly frequent viewers of such videos. Even longer programming, such as movies and full-length television show episodes, are also viewed by audiences on mobile devices, with Chinese viewers being the most inclined to watch both films and TV shows on their mobile screens. Consumers in China (37%) and Singapore (35%) report the highest incidence of watching less TV due to streaming more on mobile. If South Africa's increasing consumption of online video content is anything to go by, the way viewers interact with local television is set to shift dramatically.

When mobile video viewers do watch traditional television, however, 22 percent are regularly doing so while watching video simultaneously on their phone. This video dual-screening tendency is evident across all markets measured, with the exception of Japan.

"The popularity of digital video is evident across small screens the world over," said Anna Bager, Senior Vice President Mobile and Video, IAB, and General Manager of the IAB Digital Video and Mobile Marketing Centers of Excellence. "The fact that people are not only watching short snippets of programming, but committing to longer form content on their phones, opens doors for brands to be part of this impressive mobile engagement. However, the findings are that viewers around the world are now video dual screening while watching TV, points to an emerging challenge for marketers: How do you grab a viewer's attention when it's divided between two simultaneous video feeds?"

Across the 24 countries in the survey, there are several common ways that mobile video viewers discover digital video to view on their phones, including:

  • YouTube (62%)
  • Social media platforms (33%)
  • Search results (20%)
  • Advertising (14%)

When looking for mobile video to watch, advertising has even more influence in the U.S. (22%) and Canada (18%). Apps are indisputably the main method for viewing mobile video in each of the markets studied. Nearly half of respondents overall (48%) said that they "only" or "mostly" leverage mobile apps to stream video on their phones, with the UK (63%), Brazil (60%), and Turkey (58%) leading the trend. By contrast, across the survey sample only 18% said they "only" or "mostly" use mobile websites to view video.

More than a quarter (28%) of viewers across the participating countries said that they often see ads on mobile video that they've already seen on TV. Numbers climb higher in France (38%), Turkey (36%), Finland (35%) and the U.S. (35%). But, marketers might be missing out with this approach - since 80 percent or more of consumers in most markets expressed interest in any kind of tailored ad versus "I prefer no tailoring of ads at all." The findings point to the importance of ads being relevant to the content of the video being watched, but also show viewing history being a significant factor, especially in the U.S. and Canada.

"Audiences around the world are overwhelmingly open to mobile video advertisements that relate to their context and viewing patterns," said Joe Laszlo, Senior Director, IAB Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence. "Clearly, this is a real boon to global marketers that want to ensure they reach the audience segments most likely to be interested in their products or services."

In addition to advertising, the study shows that there is potential for mobile video monetisation through subscription and pay-on-demand models. In several markets, viewers already demonstrate a willingness to pay for video content that is streamed to phones:

  • China (33%)
  • U.K. (25%)
  • Canada (23%)
  • U.S. (23%)
  • Australia (21%)

Still, there are barriers to overcome for further success in pay-for models - and much need to grow mobile video advertising revenue. Seventy-eight percent of respondents overall stated that they would rather have free mobile video supported by ads.
To download the complete IAB "Mobile Video Usage: A Global Perspective" report, go to


A 20-question survey was designed and fielded from April 14 - May 11, 2015 in 24 countries - Argentina Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, the U.K., and the U.S. - by On Device Research. Two hundred consumers, who were 16+, owned a smartphone and watched either short or long mobile videos, were polled in each of the markets. All respondents were asked the same questions - frequency of watching, genres of mobile video watched, where they watch mobile videos, when they watch them, how they watch mobile video, do they share mobile video and whether they see any ads while watching mobile video.

Note: The South African IAB Infographic with notable data specific to South Africa is available for download from the IAB website

IAB South Africa
The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) South Africa is an independent, voluntary, non-profit association focused on growing and sustaining a vibrant and profitable digital media and marketing industry within South Africa.
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