Dear Mr. Schonfeld,

Last week you were quoted (video here) as saying:

"We don’t think plain vanilla video is the native experience people expect when they’re watching online on their tablets. You expect to touch it."

I hear you. And in many other cases I would agree with you.

But I have to call bullshit on this one. The argument you are trying to make is too nuanced to say "people expect" more interactive video.

The many millions of people watching video online are most certainly not looking to touch the video they are watching while watching it.

To understand what people might want to do while watching video on their tablets, you need to understand what they are watching and when they are watching video on their tablets. Only then will you understand what they want to do with that video when they are watching.

What they are watching

A recent eMarketer study shows that people are watching more longer form content, including movies and TV shows, on their iPads. Specifically:

  • People are watching movies 25% more on tablets than on smartphones.
  • People are watching almost 60% more TV shows on tablets than on smartphones.
  • People are watching 28% less user generated content (e.g. YouTube) on tablets than on smartphones.

When are they watching

People are spending more and more time watching video on their tablets. They're watching longer form content. It's happening in homes, in lean back mode, in bed or on the couch. The busiest tablet usage times seem to be between 5PM to 10pm (adjusted to person's local time).

What does this mean?

Yeah, people might be on the couch watching some YouTube video, or more likely an episode of Parks and Recreation via Netflix, but regardless they’re in a mode where they just want to be entertained, not to have to think, not to have to decide what button or widget to click that appears over a video.

There is already too high of a perceived cost in choosing what “vanilla” video to pick to watch. Adding interactive features on top of a video only increases the cost of choosing what video to watch.

Mr. Schonfeld, I would love to see some empirical, non-self selecting, evidence that shows otherwise.

In your interview you also said:

"What hasn’t really happened yet is a revolution in creation – everything we see is still a lean-back experience..."

I often think that video on a tablet is lean-back for a reason. The tablet is something you hold. Something that has the opportunity to be closer to us than our TVs (both literally and metaphorically speaking) and I'd like to see the experience outside of the actual video get better, not what is plopped on top of the video I actually take the time to dig into and watch.

Yes, I think there will be some place for interactive video in the future and your insight into the timing is well thought out. The advances in bandwidth available to people and increased processing power in tablets will lead to some interesting things, but for the most part, people just want to be entertained as simply as possible.

I would love to continue this conversation and hear more of your thoughts on the future directions of online video.

Henry Sztul, Ph.D.
Entertainment Scientist