Mobile Video On The Rise, But Still Only A Fraction Of All Usage

Qualcomm (NSDQ: QCOM) has called it a day with its Flo TV mobile TV venture, gaining only 1 million sign-ups – but not necessarily permanent users – in its three years of operation. But the wider picture of mobile video sounds a little more encouraging: figures to be released by Nielsen later today indicate that the number of people watching all forms of mobile video in the U.S. has increased by 43 percent over the last year, and people are watching for longer, too.

In its latest State of the Media report on mobile video usage, Nielsen says that 22 million people accessed some form of mobile video in Q2 2010, compared to 15.3 million in the same quarter a year earlier. Included in the figures are people who viewed mobile videos in apps, over the web, subscription-based services and downloads. The growth here is outpacing that of general mobile subscriber growth, which is very saturated in the U.S.

Less impressive are the figures for how long people are actually watching video: in Q2 it came out to 3 hours, 37 minutes per month, compared to 3 hours. 15 minutes a year ago: that’s an increase of only 11.3 percent. And between Q2 and Q1 2010, growth was actually flat.

Within that number, unsurprisingly, younger people are significantly more interested in watching mobile video than older people: 13-17 year-olds watch for over seven hours per month, with that number dwindling down to just under two hours for people over the age of 65.

What to make of the numbers? The figures do not indicate which kind of mobile video is more popular than others: do streaming services like MobiTV, for example, encourage more viewing than apps like Hulu’s, or YouTube’s mobile web channel? We’ve put the question to Nielsen and will update if we hear back. (Or feel free to chime in with your thoughts on this below.)

Significantly, Nielsen’s numbers ultimately show that only about 10 percent of the U.S. population is watching some kind of mobile video. That is considerably lower than other kinds of video consumption: compare it to the 287 million people who, Nielsen says, watched normal TV in their homes in the same period.

That shows that while mobile video is still very much a niche area, there is a lot of room for growth for those that are willing to stick it out.