Twitter Fire Hose Now a Video Tsunami

Over the last few months, my mobile data usage has skyrocketed. My behavior has changed very little, but still the data meter continues to rise. I haven't figured out all of the reasons for this yet, but Twitter is definitely one of them. There's more multimedia content on Twitter than ever before, and it's eating up a big chunk of my monthly mobile data allotment.

I haven't seen any official numbers on Twitter bandwidth consumption trends, but by turning off the video autoplay feature and removing preview images in my own Twitter stream, I was able to decrease my data use considerably. I'm on track to use 0.2GB of mobile data with Twitter this month, compared to 0.95GB in the last billing period.

Twitter Inc. didn't always cause problems with data usage, but the company has significantly increased its focus on multimedia content – and video in particular -- in recent months. In a letter to shareholders this week, Twitter listed live-streaming video as one of its top five priorities for the year. As evidence of the company's investment, Twitter-owned Periscope is growing rapidly, with users creating more than 200 million broadcasts so far and watching more than 110 years of live video every day on iOS and Android mobile devices alone. Twitter has also partnered with the National Football League to stream live Thursday Night Football games this fall, as well as highlights and game analysis videos. And the company says it will expand its live video coverage in the future, adding more sports in addition to live news, politics and entertainment.

Video ads are another big push for Twitter. According to executives, many advertisers are upgrading from "Promoted Tweets" to higher-performing video ad units. Twitter is also selling video ads for its coverage of Thursday Night Football, and at least one Fortune 50 company has reportedly already committed to advertising in the NFL live stream.

Want to know more about the impact of video services on the broadband landscape? Check out our dedicated OTT services content channel here on Light Reading.

The risk for Twitter is that it will oversaturate social media streams with too much video content and potentially alienate users like me who use Twitter as a newsfeed and for actual online conversations. I don't want to be bombarded by ads and other multimedia distractions.

The far bigger risk, however, is not to Twitter, but to mobile carriers. Twitter is relatively new to the video game, but it's helping to drive bandwidth demand through the roof. As North River Ventures analyst Francis McInerney pointed out recently, carriers need to upgrade their local backhaul capacity to support growing mobile traffic, and that's very expensive. While Twitter sees nothing but profit in expanding its video profile, carriers are facing major capital costs to support the company's new video business. (See Analysts More Than Bullish on Comcast MVNO.)

I don't know how successful Twitter's video strategy will be in the long term, but it's far from the only Internet company experimenting with new video models. Many big brands see over-the-top mobile video as a shiny new margin booster. And bandwidth demand is of limited concern...

Except of course to mobile operators.

And to consumers like me trying to hold down the monthly cellphone bill.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

kq4ym 5/10/2016 | 2:52:21 PM
Re: Here's what we do now ... It may be interesting to look back in 5 years and see how the video now being played on mobile looks antiquated on our future IoT devices and accessories and how cloud computing has evolved to "stratosphere" computing. Wonder if Twitter will still be limited in characters then?
kq4ym 5/3/2016 | 11:06:10 AM
Re: Here's what we do now ... It would seem that advertisers and Twitter are certainly going to move forward with the video tsunami. Whether it will turn to be a "risk for Twitter is that it will oversaturate social media streams with too much video content and potentially alienate users," might not be such a gamble as folks just get used to watching more video and paying the increasing costs monthly even it it not something they really wanted if giving a choice. It's still an advertising driven service after all.
Joe Stanganelli 4/28/2016 | 11:07:52 PM
Mobile video I'd take the opposite standpoint, I think.  Twitter -- like all the other social giants in Silicon Valley -- sees the writing on the wall for mobile video.  According to a recent Cisco report, 55% of all mobile traffic is video right now -- and by 2020 that figure is anticipated to be 75%.  Meanwhile, Facebook testing shows that users are more engaged by mobile-optimized video than by other content, and a Google study from a couple years back indicates that Millennials pay more attention to video on their phones than video on their TV screens.

Does it drive up data usage?  Absolutely.  But ultimately it won't do so beyond what the market can bear.
Gabriel Brown 4/28/2016 | 5:03:42 AM
Re: Here's what we do now ... Generally speaking, if you are on any kind of usage based tariff, using more data is good for carriers. That is their role: to shift data back and forth. The more data the better. 

Pushing uneccesary video and advertising to mobile users is all a bit inelegant, granted, but that hasn't stopped anyone before!

The Max Dingman video will probably cost a few pence to watch on mobile, depending on your plan.
mendyk 4/27/2016 | 5:11:47 PM
Here's what we do now ... After reading this, it's almost mandatory to watch the Max Dingman video again. But not on a mobile device.
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