Monday, March 18, 2013, 11:00 AM ET|Posted by Will Richmond
Here's an eye-popping data point from last week's comScore online video rankings report for Feb. '13: YouTube's total of 11.3 billion monthly views were down 32% vs. Feb. '12 when it had 16.7 billion views (see chart below). But lest you think viewers are fleeing YouTube, the perennial 800-pound gorilla of the online video market, what really appears to be happening is that a sizable chunk of viewers are shifting their viewing to mobile devices, which as I understand it, is not counted in comScore's data.
Much has been made about the seeming omnipresence of tablets and smartphones, but the decline in YouTube's online viewing is a tangible reminder of just how impactful they are. In fact, when you look a little further back in the comScore data, the mobile shift at YouTube is even more pronounced: YouTube's online views peaked in Dec. '11 at almost 22 billion. But in Dec. '12, online views were down to 13.2 billion, a 40% reduction. As I understand it, YouTube itself has pegged the shift in its viewership to mobile at 25%; that might be conservative given the comScore numbers.
The overall move to mobile among the top 10 video properties comScore is reporting is not as significant; from Feb. '12 to Feb. '13, there was a drop of 13% from 37.8 billion to 33 billion. The decline from Dec. '11 to Dec. '12 was actually a bit less, at 11%. YouTube is likely feeling the biggest impact of mobile because its mainly short-form videos are widely shared and snacked on, lending themselves to quick mobile viewing, especially through its apps. It is worth noting that YouTube actually monetized its online views better than ever, with a record 2.2 billion ads served in Feb. '13.
While YouTube may be on the leading edge here, the broader implication for all video content providers is that mobile is going to become an increasingly important part of their viewing mix. One open question in my mind is what role WiFi will play vs. carrier-based access for mobile viewing. As I pointed out recently, with wireless carriers' shifting to capped data plans, watching a lot of video on a mobile device via your carrier is an expensive proposition. With the comScore data already showing a shift to mobile consumption, this suggests users will be hunting down high-quality WiFi connections more than ever.
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