Smart phone and mobile technology together make up a critical component that has unlocked the majority of the new opportunities that exist for streaming today. Just twenty years ago, the Attention Economy would have been unimaginable because by year-2000 standards, billions of today’s consumers are carrying around pocket-sized, networked supercomputers. The upside to this development for the media industry has been a massive increase in mobile streaming opportunities: 55 percent of people in the U.S. report using their smartphone to stream video. The fact that consumers can frictionlessly access media anytime, anywhere is a generational opportunity.
The downside has been the increased fragmentation of consumer attention, which shows no sign of slowing down. As 5G networks come online, media and entertainment companies are already planning to use the increased bandwidth capacity for new and immersive experiences such as real-time sports analytics and live in-event AR. Further down the line, even more disruptive developments are possible. For example, the adoption of autonomous vehicles will create entirely new blocks of attention time during commutes, leading experts to wonder about what types of experiences and media consumers will chose to fill them with.
Mobile is critical to winning in the attention economy. As D2C streaming leaders invest in the innovation efforts required to compete against Attention Challengers, including apps like Instagram and games like Fortnight and Animal Crossing, they must consider two critical mobile dimensions: one strategic and one tactical.
1. Leaning In
The strategic dimension is focused on how a product or service enables consumers to “lean in.” Traditionally, media was considered a “lean back” experience where viewers primarily consumed content with little input or action required. But to succeed in the new Attention Economy, products and services will need to enable ways for consumers to lean in. However, in order to succeed with this type of participation from consumers, the experience needs to be considered strategically and holistically, not as an after thought. Smartphones, in particular, afford tremendous opportunities for leaning in. For example, TikTok allows users to add to the platform by creating their own content, and Instagram utilizes the dopamine inducing gestures of “liking” content. It’s clear that mobile plays an enormous part in capturing consumers’ attention and will challenge leaders to be increasingly innovative and iterative in how they bring “lean in” to the typically “lean out” world of D2C streaming.
2. Owning the Glass
There are serious challenges for any streaming service that wants to provide an experience across many different types of screens, especially mobile, but also including 10ft experiences, tablets and PCs. Many D2C streaming software platforms that enable this kind of cross-device cohesion are difficult and expensive to build. These resource-intensive solutions can be incredibly limiting, not to mention building, piloting and iterating the types of differentiated experiences that will enable D2C players to compete against the Attention Challengers.
Quibi made a massive strategic bet by investing in a UX, content format and product specifically designed to take advantage of mobile proliferation. The idea was that by offering original short-form content on a mobile-first platform, Quibi could capture small windows of attention—e.g., waiting for the train or in line for coffee—that the major streaming services aren’t competing for. While the mobile-first approach has clearly worked for social platforms like Instagram, it’s still not clear whether Quibi’s new format will win out over such proven mobile-first attention-getters. Quibi’s launch and strategy have also been complicated by COVID-19 lockdowns, which largely eliminated those moments of attention the platform aims to capture and forced them to scramble to provide an 11th-hour 10ft experience to meet consumer demand.
Questions for any company looking to compete in this space remain:
— Is an all-in bet on mobile proliferation too one-dimensional?
— Does the product provide an experience differentiated enough to compete with other mobile Attention Challengers?
— What lessons can Quibi provide to other streaming services?
In order for mobile streaming platforms to compete with Attention Challengers and win in the attention economy, they must look beyond technology and content to invest in differentiated customer experiences. We believe that the real winners are those who will bet on experience, putting people at the center of their products and services.