Is Online Video, Darling of the Digital Age, Soaking Advertisers?

 The basic premise is that online video is smashing all boundaries and TV is dead, but the Q2 Nielsen Cross Platform Report says something a little different.  Online viewing still makes up just a sliver of amount of time total TV viewing, yet the common perception, at least in media circles, might be that streaming is so vastly in the ascendancy.

Pivotal analyst Brian Wieser notes that Web video accounts for just 2.3% of all the TV viewing there is, and tell Ad Age, “Most people focus on a narrative that is frankly wrong.”     

That 2.3% includes Netflix and Hulu and YouTube which kind of constitute the Holy Trinity of streaming video in the minds of most casual observers.

But, says Wieser and Nielsen, the overwhelming amount of viewing is still happening on TV.

 This can’t really be THAT big of news to anybody. Really, to use an analogy, “Downton Abbey” performed ridiculously well for PBS—everybody was talking about it-- but it didn’t match up the ratings NBC gets for a really ordinary Sunday night football game. Why "Downton Abbey" is news is because of its trend lines, and even its who-would-have-guessed-it aura. And because it found an audience no one quite expected to be there.



Ad Age notes that online video is due to take $4.12 billion ad dollars in 2013, according to one estimate, though that’s nearly 6% of total ad spend on video entertainment.  The Nielsen stats, interpreted by Wieser, show 282 million Americans will watch an average of five hours of TV a day, compared to less than 7 hours a month, total, online. That figure, though, doesn’t count tablets.

 But I don’t know what this proves, totally. I for one don’t think tablets, laptops or smartphones will ever be watched more than TVs. Never is a long time.  But not for a long, long time.

And the kind of video one sees online is pretty different. It’s not the same kind of content as TV is, most of the time. . Short videos are probably more “chosen” than a lot of TV is, and probably more abandoned, certainly quicker, to be replaced instantly by something else.

So while online viewers aren’t spending much time, they’re spending time much more precisely as they intended to, probably more than that happens when they watch TV. That’s my theory and I think it’s a pretty valid thought, since I think most TV and most video isn’t worth a lot of time or effort. There certainly is no reason to watch TV five hours a day. Most of that has to be out of sheer lack of motivation.

Or more than that. Because the TVB, the television advertising cheerleading crew, is noting with  pride that that according to the latest report, viewers on average spent 3 additional minutes with television content versus 2Q 2012 and an additional minute viewing versus 5 years ago. That, says TVB’s chief research officer  Stacey Lynn Schulman “validates the strength of television viewership in a world of expanding video content offerings.”

Well, yes, but three minutes when people spend an average of five hours a day watching doesn’t mean too much, except it’s not three minutes lost.

Online viewing happens for different reasons, for different amounts of time, for different kinds of consumers, so it makes sense advertisers are over indexing their ad spends as the biz shakes down. TV is a different thing, as alike as TV and online video might seem. I’d say TV and online proponents each recognize the role of the other, but busy themselves with stats that in the end only “prove” what is intuitively true, anyway.

Note: I’ve had severe computer glitches today. Apologies for the latest of this post. It was not easy to get it to you at all.

3 comments about "Is Online Video, Darling of the Digital Age, Soaking Advertisers? ".
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  1. Jeff Koenig from digiriot, INC, September 12, 2013 at 1:33 a.m.

    P.J., I had to read this twice to make sure this wasn't an article form The Onion that got misposted. I generally enjoy your writing and analysis but in this case, frankly, I'm embarrassed for you and for mediapost.

    Basing an online streaming article on Nielsen "statistics" is like trusting the cigarette companies when they report on the health benefits of tobacco. And even if Nielsen didn't have a blatantly obvious bias, everyone knows that they couldn't measure a yardstick. I do agree with you that TV viewership and online video viewership isn't apples to apples (see? The real PJ is in here after all). However, the impetus behind the article is flawed, and perhaps instead of apologizing for the article being late, you should apologize for reporting on this at all.

  2. Mike Einstein from the Brothers Einstein, September 12, 2013 at 9:56 a.m.

    @Jeff, your noble defense of an online ad model in systemic collapse is laudable, yet laughable as well. But Nielsen and PJ are merely convenient targets, and you won't change reality by shooting the messenger(s).

  3. James Tremen from Google Apps, September 24, 2013 at 8:35 a.m.

    But what are the major alternatives of it? I am just totally influenced by their innovations check 'em
    Google apps shared contacts

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