Commentary

On Mobile, Any Time is Prime Time

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The big pitch for mobile video always has been that the handset makes TV catch-ups and media snacking available throughout the day and when a TV or desktop monitor is out of reach. So one of the more surprising stats from video ad network Rhythm NewMedia's first "Mobile Ad Report" is that the biggest bump in mobile video usage occurs during TV's prime-time.

Throughout much of the afternoon in any given hour about 4% of the total daily video viewing occurs across Rhythm's network of branded mobile apps for TMZ, E!, Discovery, Food Network and CBS's TV.com. But at about 7 p.m. the share starts rising to 5% between 7 and 8 p.m. and then over 6% of total daily viewing for the 8, 9 and 10 p.m. hours. In other words, almost a quarter of all mobile video viewing is occurring roughly in TV prime time. While the difference in prime time mobile video viewing and activity through the rest of the day is not massive, it is remarkable. We don't know what exactly is happening here, but a lot of people are watching mobile video when they have access to (or may even be watching) a TV.

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But of course the real opportunity for video advertising in mobile is that generally the platform reaches users more evenly throughout day parts that TV does not. Rhythm NewMedia CEO Ujjal Kohli tells me they did a rough comparison of ad spend weighting between his network and TV. "We calculated that less than 25% of ad spend is on prime time in our network but 75% to 80% of ad spend goes to prime time on TV." That means that a lot of money and ads are being focused on a small part of the day on TV and Kohli thinks this gives mobile an advantage in giving advertisers an opportunity to spread the message more evenly across the day.

To be sure, Rhythm NewMedia's new report is based on its own inventory of 250 million monthly mobile video views in smart phone apps for branded media partners. It is not necessarily broadly representative of mobile video usage. That said, it is a start at getting insights into how video is being used in Android and iPhone apps. For instance, Rhythm finds virtually no difference between the rate at which owners of each platform access video. In apps that have both video as wel as text and photos, about half of usage is going to video among Android and iPhone owners. There is also pretty much an even split among viewers accessing video over a 3G network (48%) vs. WiFi (52%). Generally, Kohli thinks the data adds up to showing how mobile video is not necessarily a drive-by media snacking experience. "Like games, video is a sit-down experience. Whether it is in the office or at home, they are sitting down often where there is WiFi to do it. And they are spending significant amounts of time viewing mobile video, especially when longer form content is available. In apps that have full TV episodes available, unique users are clocking on average 26.3 minutes watching video. On apps that are more reliant on shorter clips the average monthly video viewing time is 6.5 minutes.

When it comes to video advertising, Rhythm's partners are seeing high levels of ad exposure, with 86.7% watching the 15 second pre-rolls to completion. The ads do not seem to be provoking users to bail. On these pre-rolls, Rhythm is seeing an average clickthrough rate (CTR) of 1.7%, but there is a very wide range between 3.2% CTRs and 0.8%. Kohli says that the biggest differentiator for CTRs seems to be the ad categories themselves. Entertainment brands and their promise of trailers and richer landing experiences perform best. The static interstitial ads that appear in the middle of slide shows and between pages actually perform best with 7.5% CTRs, followed by full-page interstitials that occur at the launch of the app (6.0%)

For the last two quarters, Kohli has told me his biggest problem is getting enough inventory, as current demand is outstripping supply.

It is hardly daring anymore to state what is becoming obvious. Mobile video is going to be huge.

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