Is January Just a Bad Month For Online Video?

On a monthly basis, the comScore Video Metrix seems to be the best snapshot of where the market is now, and looking at the January numbers, an observer might note some lukewarm results.

Maybe that conclusion is just too easy.

As Streaming points out, last month, fewer people watched fewer videos than just the month before, a seemingly unusual circumstance in a video marketplace that usually calculates only increases in usage, and where usually those increases are in double digits.

But in January, 183.8 million uniques watched 48.7 billion content videos. Just the month before, 188.2 million watched 52.4 billion videos.

Even more awesome, In January, those viewers saw 26.9 billion video ads, down from 35.2 billion in December.   

Those are significant downturns, except, as Streaming Video’s Troy Dreier points out, comScore only counts desktop computers, not mobile or connected TVs and set-top boxes.  “So the declining numbers,”  Dreier points out, “could be a sign that people are shifting their video viewing to other platforms”  

That sounds plausible, as everybody and their uncle offer convincing evidence that there’s a seismic shift to mobile, at the very least.  

Or it just could be a weird December/January situation.

Last January, there were 180 million uniques who watched 36.2 billion videos and saw only 9.1 billion ads. As it turns out, that, too, was down from December, 2012, when users saw 11.3 billion ads and 182 million uniques watched 38.7 billion videos.

Now add to this one other thing. Every January, online video advertising gets a free advertisement for itself, in effect, because those well-made and incredibly well-publicized Super Bowl ads get previewed on YouTube and everyplace else. If there is a time online video has its moment, it’s in January right before the Super Bowl, and of course, the days that follow the game. People actually go looking for ads. 

If anything, I’d bet that the number of ads seen online would skyrocket in January as more casual Internet users visit sites to see those ads. For example, the Website iSpot reported that one ad alone, Budweiser’s “Puppy Love,” which was the most popular Super Bowl ad, had nearly 38 million views.

Even with help like that, though, it appears, fewer ads are seen overall, and altogether everything in the online world is down in January.

That certainly isn’t an unusual condition. Most media suffer a January advertising slump, and publishers of all sorts are usually just scraping by in that cold, cold first month of the year. 

But again, because of the Super Bowl effect, I wouldn’t have expected to see it in a raw number count of online.  

To make this far muddier still, consider that in January, users saw 26.9 billion ads, whereas last January, gees, online video seemed like public television with only 9.1 billion views.

So maybe this is only a short pause in what really was a remarkable 2013. This isn’t a slump. It was a very polite burp.  

Search reports, “the number of online content videos being watched is up 34.5% year-over-year, while the number of video ad views is up 195.6% over the same period. That's makes the growth in video ads the big story this month.” SEO Watch notes 85.1% of the total Internet audience viewed online video in January, up from 83.5% the January before.

(But, as it turns out, a larger percentage of the Internet population watched videos in both December 2012 and December 2013. Merry Christmas.)

Before we get totally lost in the weeds, another much easier trend to watch is the growing wave of support for real time bidding. SpotXChange, the big name in RTB, led all others by delivering 3.5 billion ads, far ahead of AOL (including its and Google, which usually leads in that contest. A year ago, SpotXChange wasn’t even in the top 10, but as the company itself points out, that January drain in publisher-sold ads plays to its advantage.  

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