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Tablets Challenge PCs as Leading Digital Video Channel in the US

Time spent with tablet video grows more than 50% over 2013, but video ad dollars stay online

The US market for tablet usage is maturing, and nearly half the population will use such a device at least monthly in 2014, according to new figures from eMarketer. In 2013, 132.2 million US consumers used a tablet, and that number is expected to grow 11.3% this year to reach 147.2 million. Growth rates will taper off into the low single digits over the next few years, reaching 171.3 million tablet users by 2018, or 52.1% of the population.

Tablets are taking on a more important role in advertising and ecommerce. Many US consumers are replacing their PCs with tablets for activities at home because of their portability (what makes them a “mobile device”), as they can be taken everywhere, always on. In addition, their screen size lends to specific use cases better than other mobile devices.

Tablet video viewing is one of these use cases, and its rapid growth speaks to tablets’ growing influence. In 2014, 113.4 million US tablet users will watch video programming on their devices at least monthly, representing 77.0% of all tablet users. That penetration rate will grow to 87.0% by 2018, according to eMarketer, totaling 149.0 million tablet video viewers, or 70.1% of all digital video viewers. By comparison, the number of video viewers on smartphones will reach 89.0 million in 2014 and is projected to grow to 125.4 million by 2018—a large number, but video viewer penetration among smartphone users won’t surpass 60%.

As a result of the increase in tablet video viewers, the time US adults spend watching video on tablets is growing faster than on any other medium, according to eMarketer estimates. Based on current trends, it’s inevitable that tablets will overtake online video—that is, on desktops and laptops—in the near future as the leading device for watching digital video.

In 2014, time spent with video on tablets will increase nearly 54% to 20 minutes daily, from 13 minutes in 2013. Tablet video viewing is outpacing time spent with video on smartphones, gaining more share of overall mobile video time year over year: Time spent with video on smartphones will grow from 9 minutes in 2013 to 13 minutes this year. eMarketer expects US adults to spend 22 minutes watching online video on PCs in 2014—a figure that is flat year over year.

Despite the growth of mobile video viewing and the relative stagnation of video viewing on PCs, ad spending still skews heavily toward online video. According to eMarketer’s most recent ad spending forecast, investments in online video ads in the US will reach $4.45 billion this year, dwarfing mobile video ad spending, which will total $1.44 billion. Throughout our forecast period, those numbers will grow closer together, and of the $12.27 billion we expect to be spent on digital video in 2018, 55.7% will go toward online, despite the fact that time spent with mobile video is already 50% larger than time spent watching video online and is likely to continue increasing that gap.

eMarketer bases all of our forecasts on a multipronged approach that focuses on both worldwide and local trends in the economy, technology and population, along with company-, product-, country- and demographic-specific trends, and trends in specific consumer behaviors. We analyze quantitative and qualitative data from a variety of research firms, government agencies, media outlets and company reports, weighting each piece of information based on methodology and soundness.

In addition, every element of each eMarketer forecast fits within the larger matrix of all our forecasts, with the same assumptions and general framework used to project figures in a wide variety of areas. Regular re-evaluation of each forecast means those assumptions and framework are constantly updated to reflect new market developments and other trends.

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