The Los Angeles Times has released the results of a survey conducted to determine the American market for mobile video consumers. And, depending on your POV, the results are either pessimistic or (in my opinion) kinda irrelevant. According to the poll, conducted by the Times and Bloomberg, 1650 Americans between the ages of 12 and 24 were asked a series of questions which have led to the conclusion that only 14% of teenagers would watch a TV program on a mobile phone, and only 17% of teenagers would watch a TV program on a video iPod. In Matea Gold’s article about the findings, the question is raised about whether this new mobile video trend is really growing, or just a fad that may not actually justify itself in the market. Because, after all, aren’t today’s teenagers the target demographic? In my opinion, that’s half-right.
I’m totally biased about this subject for a variety of reasons, so take this with a grain of salt, BUT I ask you to consider this anecdote for starters: When I was 15, my family became an early adopter of email and Internet in our home. It was a rare thing. I still remember, during my Senior year of high school, when our teachers told us about this new thing called “Hotmail.” Regardless, my friends and I were not quick to jump on this email bandwagon. We still relied on the U.S. Postal Service for mail, and navigating the Internet for information was nice at times, yet not in any sense was it a daily routine. But, there was a different story for my brother, Patrick, who is six years younger. By the time Patrick was in high school (i.e. six to seven years later), not only was he proficient with email but he knew how to build his own Web sites just because that’s what kids in high school did. And anyone who knows Patrick, knows that he is not a tech guy or a computer nut. He’s just your typical, American consumer adult.
My point is, I have no doubt that teenagers today have reluctant interest in watching content on their video phones or iPods. That makes total sense. Remember the time when YOU first started to embrace email? Did it happen over night? And, were people 10 or more years younger than you much more enthusiastic? Same here. This is just another digital consumer revolution. And, while many adults are starting to take to the idea of video content on phones and iPods, this is – for lack of a better expression – kids’ stuff. So, while I think the survey results are completely accurate, I think that the sample is far… too… old. The mass marketing of mobile video will not be a battle won and lost on the kids in high school today, or even the adult filmmakers or fans that find it a cool novelty. It’s a profit-earning phenomenon that will start to take off once the toddlers and grade-school kids of 2006 start earning more allowance or getting part-time jobs.
Gold even mentions in the article: “Interestingly, 12- to 14-year-old girls showed the greatest eagerness about small-screen viewing, with 20% of those surveyed open to watching television shows on cellphones and nearly a quarter interested in checking out programs on iPods.”
Another personal anecdote: one of the biggest fans I know of video iPod content is Harper Cummings. Harper Cummings is 3 years old. When on trips with her family, Harper loves to watch episodes of Dora the Explorer, downloaded to the video iPod. You have to think that by the time Harper is 13 years old, her and her friends will have much greater comfort and ease with greater and greater resources of mobile video material. That’s why Apple, Viacom, News Corp. and Nokia are buying up real estate in this industry of short-form, digital video. Because not today and not tomorrow, but by the time Harper Cummings is earning spare cash waiting tables at Chuy’s, this stuff will be everywhere. So, while I have nothing but respect for the polling of the L.A. Times and Bloomberg… maybe they should try asking around at the elementary schools, for a more accurate picture.