The Most Popular Devices for Watching OTT

When considering the devices to prioritise for your OTT service, you should consider the following:

  • Who is your audience? Are they, for example, millennials, Gen Zs, older people? 
  • Where is your audience? Are they in Western Europe, the US, APAC, MENA etc.?
  • What type of content do you offer? Long-form, short-form, UGC etc.? 
  • And what’s your business model? AVOD, SVOD, TVOD, free? 

Getting these definitions right has real-world implications for product design, technology development, customer acquisition and marketing and overall budgeting so let’s expand on them a little.

#1.  Who is your audience?

It makes sense that the wider your audience – by age group, region and movie / TV show tastes – the more platform coverage you need to have. The BBC iPlayer is a good example of a great generalist OTT service and, helpfully, the broadcaster has been supplying viewing statistics since its launch in 2007. These illustrate how the popularity of video devices has shifted over time. 

In this first chart, we can see that in 2011, computers were, by a huge margin, the prime mode of watching BBC iPlayer.

By 2014, when iPhones and iPads (and Android variants) were well established, viewing moved to smartphones and tablets.

And in a nice piece of symmetry, by January 2019, televisions (Smart or connected via a set-top box) had regained their former dominance as the main way of watching TV, linear or on-demand.

#2. Where is your audience?

Whilst we might take it for granted that people all over the world watch TV and OTT in the same way, on the same devices, there are some nuances here. 

  • In India, for example, where 380 million smartphone users have access to Netflix at no extra cost as part of their Jio subscription, mobile viewing is extremely popular

  • In the USA, Roku – with a reported 61.3m monthly active users in Q1 2021 – reigns. By contrast, the company’s devices have a relatively limited market penetration in Europe

  • And if that’s the “macro-where”, the “micro-where” is watching, for instance, in the kitchen, on the bus, in a hotel where time limitations and data plans might affect what your audience watches. 

This leads us to…

#3. The type of content you offer

Short-form content, whether user-generated or produced more professionally, is almost literally made to be watched on your phone on platforms like YouTube, TikTok, Instagram Stories and Facebook. 

What about longer-form “TV” from traditional broadcasters as well as Netflix, Amazon or Disney? Is that more suited to a bigger screen? And can viewers really enjoy football, tennis or ice hockey on anything else? 

Clearly, different content is attractive to different demographics. What devices are those audiences already using/do they have and prefer?

#4. What’s your business model?

For OTT services that are monetised via advertising, the idea that “you go where the eyeballs are” would seem to ring true. Aim for the widest possible coverage albeit that there’s still a cost (of product development / bespoke coding) vs. ROI calculation to be made.

For more premium SVODs, the equation may be slightly different. Do you, for instance, need to be on a growing (but, for now, slightly underwhelming) platform like Apple TV+ and / or pay the “Apple tax” to be a part of its app store? It’s a similar story for TVODs where margins may already be low. 

And then there’s the fairly new phenomenon of business-to-business-to-consumer (B2B2C) channels like Amazon Prime. Again, there’s a payment gateway levy involved but the big upside is that this is where your potential audience may already be at. 


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