nScreenMedia OTT multiscreen media analysis

Are OTT TV services running out of fresh content?

Frequency of smartphone video use US Q1 2020

New data shows that the big spike in viewers of OTT TV services is dissipating. Could the production halt be the culprit? The growth in smartphone video use is not slowing down, and video download viewing is not slowing either.

Is a lack of new content impacting OTT views?

According to Alphonso, the March spike in OTT viewing is returning to pre-emergency viewing levels. The company says that the number of households streaming content peaked at almost 30% above January-February average levels. Since then, it has been in a deep decline. In early May, it was still 10% above average though on a downward curve.HHs streaming OTT to TV Feb-Apr 2020

Could the fall in viewers be due to the lack of new content? Many services like Disney+ and Hulu have been affected by the halt in production due to emergency restrictions. With much less content flowing into the services, viewers could well have run out of new things to watch.

There is one service that continues to release new shows at close to a pre-crisis pace: Netflix. In Q1, the company added 15.8 million new paying subscribers versus 9.6 million in Q1 2019. We will have to wait for the company’s Q2 results in July to find out if the new content provided a sustainable advantage.

Mobile viewing increases, whether at home or away

Last week, I discussed Conviva data showing that mobile viewing increased even as people stayed home more. New data from Penthera shows that mobile viewing is commonplace whether people are traveling or not. The company released data from a survey of 1,000 people across the country and asked panelists to respond with “typical” day-to-day behaviors as they were before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three-quarters of respondents say they watch video on their smartphones at least once a month or more. 44% say they are daily viewers and 24% watch weekly. As to be expected, younger viewers are more frequent smartphone video users. However, two-thirds of 45 to 50-year-olds watch at least monthly and almost a third watch every day.

What is more, a behavior usually associated with mobility also finds frequent use at home. Two-thirds of respondents say they downloaded video to their device in the first quarter. Moreover, while 43% say they watch their downloaded videos while on a trip, the second most popular viewing location is the home.

Why would someone download and watch when they can stream immediately? Quality and convenience could be the reason. Broadband networks and connections can become very congested at busy times, causing streaming problems. As well, the television could be in use by another family member at peak viewing times. Survey respondents indicate downloads are an effective way of overcoming both problems. 38% say they download from a streaming service because they want to watch whenever and wherever they want. Moreover, a third want to avoid buffering.

With more people watching video on their smartphones as they stayed at home more, it is likely they also downloaded more video to guarantee their viewing experience.

Number of viewers to local TV unchanged

Alphonso says that the number of people watching ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, and CW has remained unchanged from pre-emergency levels throughout the crisis. Maintaining the audience during these troubled times is an achievement for the broadcasters. They have lost live sports, and daily talk and late-night shows have either gone to re-runs or switched to social distancing formats. As well, some TV show seasons have run out of episodes.

Perhaps the broadcaster’s secret lies in local news. Alphonso says local news broadcasts have maintained their audience throughout the crisis. Local news has been deemed an essential service and has maintained its schedule of regular broadcasts.

Why it matters

The fall in OTT streaming households seen in April could be due to the lack of new content due to the cessation of TV and movie production.

Whether people are locked down or not, their smartphone viewing continues to increase.

Broadcaster TV is maintaining its audience at pre-crisis levels. The continued delivery of local news could be the reason why.

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