Big Jump In Authentication, OTT In 2014

Viewers are obviously getting the hang of viewing content via over-the-top devices and smartphones. In fact, says the new FreeWheel Video Monetization Report for Q4 2014, being released this afternoon, those reports of OTT devices selling briskly weren’t lying.

And, the study adds, authentication has gotten much wider acceptance, despite (I’d say) the just so-so efforts to let consumers know it exists or explain how easy it is for them to access. TVEverywhere is apparently living up to its name and more so as more programmers make apps available.

The FreeWheel report says monetization via OTT devices zoomed 236% in the fourth quarter, while smartphones went up 70%. For the year, those increases were 257% and 109% respectively. Zowie.

Significantly, in the fourth quarter, monetization via OTT devices was more than from smartphones. The victims in this trend are laptops and tablets. As it becomes easier to watch on a big screen--or conversely, to watch where you are on a smartphone--laptops and tablets are the odd sizes out.



“For now,” I’d add, because if online viewing eruptions teach anything, it is that nothing is forever. (There seem to be just two immutable rules of video content: People watch content, not networks. And if there is a larger screen somewhere, viewers will be there.)

This Q4 analysis is the typical strong affirmation of how the television is really, screen agnostic, a view that the Comcast-owned FreeWheel ad serving business can live with because it gets you coming or going. But from an ad standpoint, too, the FreeWheel spin invariably ends up showing that video-wise, we’re all in this together.

A rising tide lifts all screens and all that.. Their quarterly analyses usually shows how traditional TV is helped by digital offshoots and vice versa.

But they’re not making this stuff up (I hope), and the cumulative snapshot is a content universe that has changed radically, in just a few years. For example, it reports, quarterly record increases in the volume of live streaming, which in 2014 grew 297%.

Such a sure-shot live streaming event like the World Cup, in Q2 and Q3 just looked like business as usual when the college football bowl game streams helped push streaming ahead even more in the fourth quarter. Those live views made up a 23% share of total ad views for the quarter. (What juggernaut those bowl games are going to become, like they aren’t already.)

The report also says that Q4 marked the first quarter in which over half of the online long-form and live ad views--52%-- came via authenticated viewing. That’s mind blowing, especially if you consider that last year, only 13% did.

FreeWheel says, without italics or boldfaces or even an exclamation point: “The expanded role of authenticated viewing has proved remarkably consistent, maintaining a quarterly growth rate above 200% since we began reporting on the metric, with 591% year-over-year growth this quarter.”  I did a spit-take when I read that.

Long-form content is catching on and should increasingly in the future; FreeWheel said ad views in longer programming increased 43%, but "only" 19% for shorter stuff. 

For the first time since it’s been doing these reports, FreeWheel calculated the age of on-demand television being consumed and discovered, not totally surprisingly, that newer stuff sells and people are increasingly watching it online, while, it appears watching less of it conventionally.  

Views of new broadcast shows online grew 67% over a year ago while the broadcasters were otherwise mostly reporting drops in their fall Nielsens, which FreeWheel says “ suggests that viewers are not going away so much as finding new ways to connect with their favorite shows.”

And they're taking their time. Some 64% of those watching new programming, are waiting 8 days or more to do it. That gives ammunition to network executives pushing the longer-framed Nielsen measurements to sell add,

For the year, FreeWheel says, video views were up 27% and ad views were up 30%. “While consistent growth of digital video monetization is impressive in and of itself, what truly caught the eye this quarter was the expansion of the TV ecosystem,” the report says,  “thus confirming the fact that digital video’s growth is driven by ultra-premium content, and the health of the TV industry can no longer be determined solely by linear GRPs.”
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