Are vertical videos the future of streaming?

Are vertical videos the future of streaming?

Remember physically spooling cassette tapes? Today, choosing tracks is a one-click matter.

Today, the same thing is happening to videos. Only, the process has been swifter.

Landscape no longer king


Until recently, landscape was the default video format. Content was shot on cameras rarely tilted vertically.

Our eyes process visuals by scanning horizontally. Therefore, our frame of reference is binocular, making landscape – or horizontal - videos feel natural. Screens – in theatres, TVs, computers - were designed for landscape. Filmmakers followed suit, also because horizontal videos were aesthetically superior. Even today, watching longer videos horizontally is a more pleasant experience because that’s how our brains are wired.

But lately, vertical videos are becoming the go-to format for content. YouTube, the biggest horizontal video platform, lags behind Facebook and Instagram in clickthrough rates. Vertical videos perform 4x better on Facebook and 2.5x better on Twitter.


Device dictates content

Even in the post-Internet world, we accessed content horizontally on our desktops or laptops.

This changed in the early 2010s when smartphones gained popularity. By 2013, global smartphone sales surpassed feature phones, transforming the content ecosystem. People became used to content on vertical screens.


Equally important, an increasing number of smartphones had cameras, democratizing content creation and turning everyone into a filmmaker. Increased bandwidth allowed users to upload videos instantly. Shooting vertically became natural because that’s how we held our phones.

Vertical video: the new default

Today, mobile platforms drive content consumption, accounting for >75% of video viewing. That figure is going up by 100% annually. Users spend close to 3 hours and 20 minutes on smartphones and just 40 minutes on PC.


Naturally, our viewing habits have changed. We hold our phones vertically 94% of the time and are only 30% likely to turn our smartphones sideways for videos. Even when we do, we watch just 14% of the video, giving vertical video 9 times more completion rates.

Vertical video is here to stay and will only become more popular. What does this transition mean for content creators and disseminators?

Getting vertical video right


The first constraint for content creators or OTT platforms is the diversity of formats. Vertical video may have the numbers, but for visual impact, horizontal still wins.

A rule of thumb is to consider the content length. We intuitively prefer watching a 15-second clip or a sporting event highlight on a smartphone. But, for the actual film or game, we prefer big screens. So, it makes sense to shoot long-form videos horizontally and shorter clips vertically. Of course, shoot horizontally if you have production limitations, but ensure that the content can be cropped for vertical viewing.

Second, and equally crucial for any OTT platform, is a sound multi-device strategy that ensures the right format served to the right device. Users own an average of 6.5 connected devices. For the average American, that number jumps to 13. While mobile usage is high, TVs and laptops still have their adherents, especially in Asia, where a third of viewers list Smart TVs and Amazon Fire Sticks as popular content-viewing options. Viewers expect a consistent experience, irrespective of the device. Ensuring this will make a massive impact on your platform’s success.


But encoding different video formats can be cumbersome. It’s essential to invest in a platform that streamlines Content Delivery Networks (CDNs). The right combination of CDNs ensure that with the right technology, you automate serving the right format on the right device. You can also account for latency and bandwidth issues on each device. An advanced OTT tech stack does this on the fly. It also provides usage and user preference analytics on which format to use where. It makes the lives of content creators and OTT platforms easier by removing guesswork and making their content equally engaging, irrespective of the device.

The best of both worlds

Vertical video may rule the roost now, but you can't discount the utility of horizontal videos.

By fine tuning production capabilities, choosing an effective multi-device strategy and adopting the right technology, content owners, creators, and streaming platforms can make both horizontal and vertical forms work.

All with a shared goal: catering to evolving needs and habits of the viewer.

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