Live Viewing (Of All Sorts) Way Up In Q1, Says FreeWheel Report

I watched “Veep” on the iPad on the front porch last night, and the local news on the same device in bed. I DVRed Letterman. Last week, I watched a baseball game from my smartphone at the airport, and some nights, I access to watch a game on the big TV via Amazon Fire.

I’m pretty ordinary, it turns out, not that that’s a headline of any sort. But the FreeWheel Q1 2015 Monetization Report , out today, confirms my existence in the cradle of the new comformity. 

It says live viewing, mainly of sports, but also authenticated entertainment and news content, was up 140%, year-to-year and that authenticated viewing grew 328% year-over-year and now accounts for 57% of all long-form and and live viewing.

Brian Dutt, FreeWheel’s director of advisory service and the author of the report, also points out another stat:  

Viewing on OTT streaming devices is up an astounding 380% (and 105% on smartphones) year-over-year. FreeWheel calls all those content-spewing devices "the new living room."

“You wonder why people would choose to watch authenticated content on an OTT device,” Dutt says, “but then you see some of them offer different angles for sports, or easy access to social media. It’s just more attractive.”

Most of that live viewing--82% of it--was sports, but 7% was entertainment content and 11% was news content, including things like CNNgo but also local newscasts.

Those increasing numbers for other-than-sports, FreeWheel’s report says, “supports our hypothesis that live sports viewing is leading viewers to TV Everywhere offerings, drawing increasing numbers of viewers to ultra-premium, high-CPM ad inventory. The live sports ‘gateway drug’ is noticeably moving the needle for programmers, as viewer cravings for immediate access to content grows more with every simulcast.”

And he says: “There’s a lot of room left” with increased viewing from gaming consoles, Roku, Apple TV and more. “Judging by the growth rate, it can only go up from here.”

The same is true with advertising, it would appear. Indeed Roku now initiated 43% of all OTT ad views (up from 37% year to year) and Chromecast grabbed 12%, up from 7%. (If this report is correct, it might prompt a little alarm about Apple TV. FreeWheel’s data says it only captures 20% of the ad views, down from 36% year-to-year.)

FreeWheel is now owned by Comcast, which should be eager to promote authenticated opportunities, but conspiracy theories aside, the idea of watching live TV on your laptop, tablet or smartphone is getting to be almost old hat, which is exactly why Nielsen and the networks are clamoring for a really good count of those viewers.

“Live” viewing online is also now leading to some pretty interesting experiments.

A couple days ago, NBC announced that after its two-hour May 28 premiere of “Aquarius,” a summer series starring David Duchovny as a detective working on 1967’s infamous "Charlie Manson murders," it will stream all 13 episodes online, while also showing it on linear television every Thursday night. That binge event should open eyes about online viewership.

Altogether, video views were up 40% and video ad views up 43% over a year ago. There’s a 50% spike in viewing of long-form content, which technically is defined as 20 minutes or longer. (A typical sitcom is 22 minutes before the ads.)

For now, it seems digital-only publishers are staying with their short game. Only 3% of their views come from live content and just 9% from long form content. FreeWheel suggests that will change. On the other hand, it would seem short and mid-form programming are more viable, desirable and consistent with the short-attention spans they themselves established online. There’s not a big market for half-hour music videos, but a pretty solid demand for live concerts.
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