Netflix: Half of all users watch video on phones, but only 10% of total viewing is mobile

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BARCELONA, Spain -- Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) said that fully half of all of its users watch video via the company's streaming service on their smartphones during any given month. However, the company said that only 10 percent of the company's total streaming load is sent to those smartphones.

Netflix's Scott Meyer, VP of the company's device partner ecosystem, revealed those statistics during an event here on the sidelines of the Mobile World Congress trade show, the global wireless industry's biggest annual event. Meyer explained that the figures reflect the rapid rise of smartphone usage among the world's population, but show that Netflix's users still appear to consume the service's long-form content on bigger-screen devices like computers and TVs.

"Behavior on mobile is different," Meyer said.

He said that Netflix viewing on smartphones typically happens an hour later than peak viewing hours in the evening, which he said indicates that users are watching some video on a TV or laptop but then continuing to watch that content in bed with a smartphone. He also said Netflix users access the service through their smartphones during the morning and during lunch -- likely because they are in the midst of getting ready for the day or taking a lunch break at work.

"We're just starting to learn about this," he said.

While Netflix's findings indicate that users continue to prefer larger screens for the bulk of their viewing, figures shared by a top YouTube executive indicate that mobile viewers aren't just looking for a quick fix. David Benson, director of brand strategy for Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) YouTube in the EMEA region, said that the streaming video service has found that the average duration of mobile users' viewing is roughly 40 minutes long. "This [mobile usage] is just a colossal explosion."

Alex Wellen, chief product officer for CNN, acknowledged the importance of smartphones and other mobile devices to CNN's video strategy. He said the company has worked to ensure its content is available to users wherever they are, on whatever device they wish to use. "We need to meet the customer where they are," he said. "We have to be native in those environments."

Interestingly, Netflix's Meyers added that European wireless operators Orange and BT (NYSE: BT) are billing their customers on behalf of Netflix, meaning that customers of those operators pay for their Netflix service as part of their monthly mobile service bill. Netflix currently counts close to 75 million subscribers worldwide, and recently expanded its service to more than 100 countries around the globe.

Aside from the rise of mobile video viewing, Meyers and others also discussed the importance of creating video content that is local and relevant to users. "Local content is really, really important," said Kirill Filippov, CEO of SPB TV.

Netflix's Meyers agreed, pointing out that Netflix has worked to create original content for its service that is specific to its various international markets. "Content is certainly getting more fluid," he said. "We're still kind of on an exploration to learn."

However, Meyers cautioned against developing content for specific platforms, essentially countering the notion that mobile users prefer short-form content. "If you sit down and think, 'How do you build video for mobile?' you're probably not going to hit the mark," he said.

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