SAN FRANCISCO — A report of online video viewing in the third quarter showed mobile video growth decelerated for the first time on a sequential basis, an inflection point that could signal the start of tougher competition in the online video ad market.

The report also points to new viewing patterns emerging in some industry segments, notably in professional sports, suggesting the ultimate market winners will enjoy budding ad-revenue opportunities.

The data from Ooyala, a former San Francisco start-up that’s now a unit of Telstra, Australia’s No. 1 telecom giant, tracks and analyzes the digital video viewing of 220 million consumers around the globe.

Its analysis looks at digital ads and content such as movies, TV shows, sports and other live events watched on cable systems and other high-speed Internet networks.

Mobile continues to grab a much-greater share of all such video views, comprising 45% of all digital viewing in the third quarter, compared with 30% a year earlier, the report said.

Still, the pace of growth was slower than the previous quarter.

“The rate of growth for mobile online video views is slowing down,” the report reads. “Mobile growth decelerated in the third quarter.”

While that makes sense as mobile becomes a bigger portion of the overall digital video pie — it now makes up nearly half — it suggests online ad competition is about to go “to 11,” as a character once said in Rob Reiner’s classic spoof This is Spinal Tap.

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In that market landscape, will traditional media behemoths such as Disney and Comcast triumph, or will it be online ad giants Google and Facebook vanquishing the cable and TV networks?

The view from here is that it’s too soon to declare a winner, because while technology firms have the edge in targeting and audience verification, known in the industry as attribution, they still don’t own a lot of professionally-produced content yet.

New business will be there for the taking for nimble companies of all sizes.

Even with mobile’s deceleration, its overall growth rate — still at 50% — looks to have a lot of runway as the amount of time spent by consumers on mobile devices grows.

Sports-related video advertising promises to be a fierce-but-fertile battleground.

For example, the Ooyala report shows the number of videos viewed in the media market of “a popular European soccer club” (which it declined to name) surged 75% the day before a match.

Video viewing then skyrocketed 100% the day after the same live sports event.

“The two trends show a broad three-day window for content providers to maximize fan engagement and ad revenue around game day,” according to the report.

It’s no coincidence then that on Oct. 25, the National Football League live-streamed a game for the first time, one played in London but available live in the U.S. via a partnership with Yahoo. The game, between the Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars, drew 15.2 million viewers.

In other trends, smartphones widened their dominance over tablets by capturing 88% of the overall mobile video viewing market, up from 79% a year ago.

Yet tablets and TVs are still the favorite screen for content over 10- and 30-minutes long, respectively.

Lastly, automated ad buying, known in the business as “programmatic,” continues to explode, with real-time bidding up a mind-blowing 235% sequentially from the second quarter.

“Programmatic deals are becoming routine,” the report said. “They’re on a trajectory toward becoming a norm, rather than an exception, in video advertising.”

Follow USA TODAY tech columnist John Shinal @johnshinal

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