Thoughts on the Future of Mobile Video

Robert LaskyGigaOM author Janko Roettgers did a write-up of startups Showyou and Vidora titled with the question “Is the Future of Mobile Video all about apps?” which served as a catalyst to organize some thoughts on the subject that I’ve been mulling over the past couple of weeks (thanks Janko).

Many TV networks have standalone apps that offer some amount of streaming video programming. Given the current life stage of TV everywhere and a la carte TV being in its infancy, this is a necessary but transitional strategy for a variety of reasons:

1. Clutter: Consumers don’t want a dozen or more “TV” apps on their devices buried in one or more “TV” folders, they want a single go-to for the programming they want to watch.

2. Loyalty: Consumers are only loyal to a network based on programming. Consumers don’t think network first, they think “programs I want to watch” first and want a single place to find them. Consider, if this weekend’s “Game of Thrones” season finale were to magically end up on Showtime instead of HBO. Millions of fans would scramble to their respective program guides to find the listing so they know to tune into Showtime at 9pm.

3. Interface: Consumers don’t want multiple app user experiences to get to programming, and there’s currently no UX symmetry across any competing networks’ offerings. The app part of the experience needs to be as simple as possible, and play second fiddle to the programming the consumer wants to watch. And because loyalty lives at the program level, there will continue to be a need for a cross-network “programming guide,” which consumers won’t want in yet another app.

4. Support: Content producers and networks won’t want to be on the hook for having to develop and support applications across existing and emerging platforms over the long term. Supporting apps requires being in the customer service and support business, putting the network in the QoS crosshairs at both the feed and user device level.

Whether Showyou, Vidora, MSOs, a existing leading tech company or a TBD startup become an 800lb. gorilla in mobile video is to be seen, but there will be a dedicated delivery layer between the content creators / networks and consumers as the mobile market matures.

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