Though estimates vary, few argue the claim that mobile's share of total video viewing is growing rapidly. Last month, Cisco Systems estimated video accounted for 60% of mobile data traffic last year, and that the latter has grown 18-fold over the last 5 years. In November, the IAB estimated U.S. mobile video ad spend (much of it undoubtedly on YouTube) grew 178% annually in the first half of 2016 to $1.6 billion, leading it to account for over 40% of a $3.9 billion online video ad market.
The return of mobile unlimited data plans could provide a fresh boost to smartphone video viewing in the U.S. market, which still accounts for close to half of Google and Facebook's ad sales. Globally, improving 4G network coverage and the spread of carrier Wi-Fi networks that automatically connect nearby smartphone users will act as growth drivers.
Over the long run, the adoption of cheap, smartphone-paired. virtual reality headsets, such as Samsung and Facebook/Oculus' Gear VR and Google's Daydream View, could act as one more mobile video catalyst. But image quality and other aspects of the user experience still need to be improved.
Just as they've changed how hundreds of millions of consumers play games, shop, read news and communicate, smartphones are upending how consumers are entertained by videos. Some of the ripple effects are already easy to see, but others have only begun to be felt.