Ericsson study finds viewers 'across age groups' migrating toward smartphones

A newly released study by Ericsson (NASDAQ: ERIC) found some important things about two types of screens used by viewers: one, that the amount of viewing on large television screens in the home hasn't changed much in four years; and two, that the amount of viewing on smartphone screens has changed massively. Teenagers alone have upped their smartphone video viewing by 85 percent between 2011 and 2015.

However, the move toward viewing on smaller mobile screens isn't isolated to younger audiences. "(S)creen preference is gradually changing from the traditional TV set to smartphones. This is a change that can be observed across age groups, although it is most clearly seen in teen behavior," Ericsson's latest Mobility Report said.

Ericsson Consumer Lab total weekly hours of home viewing

The shift toward mobile adds more fuel to the idea that measuring usage by age group doesn't give a full picture of viewing trends. For example, Ericsson found that between July 2014 and October 2015, teens' use of cellular data to watch video jumped 127 percent. However, adults aged 30 to 35 had a higher growth rate than teens, even though their actual data consumption was much smaller.

Further, the time that people view content online – regardless of device – has interesting ramifications. The majority of viewers surveyed, including teens and adults, are more likely to watch online content late in the evening, for example.

"Media content and its increasing connection to mobility is playing a pivotal role in the TV and Media industry today; we can see this through the spread of smart, video-enabled devices and the massive explosion of streamed video content from the internet," said Elisabetta Romano, VP and head of TV and media for Ericsson, in a media backgrounder. "While TV and video viewership is changing for everyone, it's telling that today's teens are driving this evolving behavior from traditional TV viewing to streaming video on their smartphones."

Ericsson's Consumer Lab surveyed 9,000 people aged 16 to 59 in nine countries as part of the report.

Of course, increasing video viewing on mobile devices means a jump in traffic across mobile networks. Ericsson said that data traffic grew 60 percent worldwide between Q1 2015 and Q1 2016. North America currently has the highest monthly data usage per active smartphone subscription. And that's expected to keep growing: by 2021, Ericsson forecasts that North American subscribers will average 22 GB of monthly smartphone data each. Other regions, particularly Asia Pacific, will see a huge expansion in data traffic by 2021, and China alone will add 210 million mobile subscriptions between 2015 and 2021, the report said.

Despite the launch of zero-rated services like T-Mobile's (NYSE:TMUS) Binge On and Verizon's (NYSE: VZ) go90, which don't count against a user's data plan, services like YouTube still dominate video traffic in most mobile networks, the study found. Furthermore, YouTube takes up 50 to 70 percent of video traffic for all the networks Ericsson measured, regardless of the device it is being watched on.

Perhaps more daunting, mobile video traffic is expected to continue growing by 55 percent annually, and by 2021 will take up two-thirds of all mobile data traffic.

For more:
- see the release

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