While 2016 was a year of surprises, both welcome and unwelcome, 2017 promises to hit some new milestones of questionable merit as well.
Evidence? Sony recently announced new details about their movie about emoji. Yes, there’ll be a movie about emoji. Really. (Disclaimer: Perhaps you shouldn’t trust me with cultural judgments such as this; I thought Robin Williams’ Genie character in Aladdin was over the top and he’s become a beloved figure in the Disney pantheon. Regardless…a movie about emojis? Come ON!)
While I hold a very dim view of the creative merits of the movie, what I do find interesting and innovative is the marketing for The Emoji Movie. Sony has released what has been described as the world’s first mobile-viewing-optimized trailer, with a 9×16 aspect ratio. You read that right – it’s 9×16, NOT 16×9. Watch a movie trailer about emojis on a vertically-oriented mobile screen where you USE emojis every day. (Get a taste of the wonder that will be The Emoji Movie – Discover the secret world inside your phone. Only on your phone. Watch the #EmojiMovie teaser trailer now (best viewed on your phone).
It makes perfect sense for audience engagement tactics to encompass the major area of growth in audience engagement. As reported by VOD Professional, a Streaming Video Alliance study… confirmed that 40% of people watch an hour or more of video on their smartphone each week, and 25% watch more than two hours. This usage is likely to continue to grow as domestic VOD platforms expand their service offerings to be mobile optimized and traditional publishers expand their business models into the digital world, including video (short form and long form).
Yet as strong as this growth trajectory is in the developed economies of North America, Western Europe and the Pacific Rim, there’s an even greater potential and expectation for growth in developing economies where market penetration and reliance on mobile technology for entertainment is greater. Variety published an interesting piece recently about the state of the VOD market in Africa, noting that According to the GSM Assn., a trade body that represents mobile operators worldwide, there were roughly 160 million smartphones in sub-Saharan Africa in 2015, a number expected to rise to more than half a billion by 2020. That, coupled with increasing internet penetration and the expected rollout of 4G across the continent, has many industry experts predicting a boom in demand for SVOD and TVOD services.
Big VOD enterprises such as Netflix and Amazon are making strong plays for this market with their aggressive global expansion, but their size hasn’t completely obliterated all obstacles; they too must take into account the unique characteristics of the market, which go beyond the dominance of mobile access by the audience. While Netflix waded into the African market as part of its global expansion in 2016, local executives are confident they can outflank the streaming giant by providing services that are better suited to the region’s technical and economic realities. What’s needed, they say, are plans that are sensitive to slow streaming speeds and high data costs, and offer flexible payment options.
What conclusions might we draw from these individual indicators — the debut of natively mobile marketing tactics, the increase of domestic mobile consumption habits, the forecast of explosive growth in mobile device market penetration in developing countries, and the prospect for market disruption by nimble, mobile-first VOD providers in underserved international markets?
Mobile will become one of the primary…if not THE primary access points for video consumption in the future. While the majority of entertainment is still viewed in the living room today, that proportion will undoubtedly see significant change in the next five years. Perhaps, given the favorable ratio of mobile devices to viewers vs set-top devices to viewers, it may even surpass traditional OTT channels in terms of total viewing hours.
Mobile VOD entities may do to the VOD giants just what these innovators themselves did to the traditional broadcast model – undercut, disrupted and challenged them – resulting new services business models.
Finally, the increasing use and reliance on mobile will only fuel the increasing trend toward personalization. Mobile devices are, after all, personal devices. As the entertainment pipeline evolves to ultimately “end” at the mobile device, it makes sense that that experience will be increasingly personal.