It’s not a pivot to video, video is pivoting to mobile - Reuters News Agency

It’s not a pivot to video, video is pivoting to mobile

Hollywood is going mobile

By Jodie Hopperton | Feb 21, 2019

Over the last few years there has been much talk of a ‘pivot to video’ as publishers considered it a quick way to engage an audience through social platforms whilst generating premium advertising revenue.

However, audiences are shifting to mobile, and creating video for smaller screens introduces a new set of challenges which is one of the reasons we’ve seen layoffs at Mic, Buzzfeed, Vice and others recently.

Hollywood is stepping in, with new theories for the approach to storytelling through mobile, and some serious momentum of both talent and money behind them.

Before we dive into the specifics there are a few things we should keep in mind:

1. In the US we know that cable cutting is rife, with people moving to subscription platforms such as Hulu, Netflix and Amazon, plus Disney and others likely to launch later this year. Consumers can still use their TV to stream, but they may prefer their computer, tablet or phone.

2. There is also a consumer group known as ‘cable nevers’ who are growing up with digital services across devices. Their viewing patterns and definition of ‘entertainment’ is fundamentally different as the concept of staying in at a particular time on a particular evening to watch their desired show is decidedly foreign.

Whilst some may go to the New York Times or BBC for the latest when they have a few minutes to spare, competition from other options is rife, and it’s not just social media.

3. More services are moving to the cloud and the promise of greater connectivity that 5G brings means a better viewing experience for viewers on the move. Mobile has become the most popular device for digital media in terms of time spent each day.

With its proximity to Silicon Valley, and the hard shift in viewership to streaming, Hollywood now understands the changing the digital landscape only too well. With this in mind, Los Angeles is embracing change and the buzz is all about the platform of mobile.


Perhaps the most notable example is Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman’s Quibi. Based in Los Angeles they are bringing Silicon Valley tech knowhow with Entertainment know how into one platform for ‘quick bites’.

They will be spending $1bn between now and 2025 and are ramping up quickly. The idea behind this is simple: most TV viewing is made for one-hour segments, they are looking to provide a platform where compelling content is made for 10-minute segment and is easily surfaced (Whitman notes that it takes a user an average of eight minutes to find content on Netflix, that’s too long for mobile1).

Many of the big Hollywood studios are on board as well as notable celebrities such as Actor Leonardo de Caprio and Director Guillermo del Toro. This isn’t a new video platform of short form video as we think about it. It’s high quality production (think HBO), but in shorter segments (60 or 90 minutes) would be designed to be watched in 10-minute segments. Although the launch date hasn’t been decided it will be late 2019 or early 2020.

Vertical Networks

How many times have you sat there watching a movie and thought to yourself ‘when is this going to get going?’ Now if you’re watching that, specifically on mobile, that was built for mobile, you never get to that point.

[Vertical Networks is] competing with everything on a person’s phone that [we’re] stopping them from doing, every second that they spend to consume [our] content.

When you think about the world that way – when you think about storytelling that way – it really changes the way that you think about what kind of content needs to be created for it to be successful in that kind of environment. So, where I’m placing the bets is that I think the market will continue to recognize the opportunity that there is a space to be had around premium content but that is built specifically to be consumed on mobile not just distributed on mobile. ”

Jesus Chavez, CEO, Vertical Networks

Their shows are in vertical video format and use deep analytics to test content and understand what is successful and why – not simply video starts and finishes.

Most shows run on Snap (which also has a stake in the company), averaging at four to five mins each but they are branching out to other platforms and have a show on Facebook Watch with a slightly longer show of eight minutes.

One of their most popular shows, called Phone Swap, is a dating type show where they judge a prospective partner based on what is on their mobile phone. This has subsequently been licensed to Fox – we are now going full circle.

Mammoth Media

Also based in Santa Monica is Mammoth Media who has been experimenting with storytelling in different formats such as Yarn, which tells stories through text conversations.

They call it a ‘chat fiction app’ and stories are told across a number of genres such as romance, mystery, thriller, horror, and dating. By owning the IP and the delivery, through their own apps, they can also focus on monetization, working directly with brands on sponsorships.

To give some context to this they say that 60 million stories and eight billion messages have been read to date and that the average user reads 4 times per day for 2 minutes per session totalling 56 minutes in their first week. Those are impressive stats.

To give some context to this, Mammoth say:

  • 60 million stories and eight billion messages have been read to date
  • average user reads four times per day for two minutes per session
  • …totalling 56 minutes in their first week.

Those are impressive stats.


There cannot be discussion about mobile video without talking about Snap. Whilst Snap has its problems, it still attracts 186m daily active users, which is 60m more than Twitter.

Snap has been innovative with creating different formats for mobile and has been a pioneer of vertical video with split screens, text over video and motion graphics. Take a look at Sean Mills 2017 MIPCOM keynote during which the promo video states ‘Snapchatters don’t watch shows, they interact with them’.

Sean Mills, head of original content, Snap

These studios are not flash in the pan ideas that are thrown out into the world to see if they can garner a viral hit, they are well thought out data driven organisations. We’re going to see some exciting new ways to tell stories over mobile, the question is in where does news fit in?

This article does not express the views of Reuters. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author.