OTT Zooms In FreeWheel Report

The FreeWheel Q1 analysis, out today, has some fun stats, measuring some aspects of streaming that don’t get put out there very widely, very often.

The evidence, as presented, suggests online viewers need time to digest everything they’re offered, that live content is zooming and that everybody is getting very comfortable with OTT in the living room. Meanwhile, that laptop isn't where it's at.

It seems, taken as a whole, a lot of the FreeWheel analysis supports the idea that online premium viewing is really TV in a thin disguise. So there’s no mistake about it: 53% of the U.S. ad views in Q1 came from within long-form programming. Among digital pure-plays 90% of the ads came from short-form programming.

The FreeWheel report says desktop/laptop’s 37% share of the ad landscape is now the lowest ever. (It was 57% in Q1 2015. Wow!)

Essentially, ad dollars are now being spread nearly equally between those laptops and OTT/VOD (36%) and smartphones and tablets (27%).

“A major change this quarter is OTT’s new standing as the second-most monetized platform in the U.S., now delivering slightly more than one out of five ads,” the report says. “There’s room for further growth too, as new devices and publishers enter the OTT landscape, which we expect to continue throughout 2016. Look for the living room’s share to continue to rise.”

About the digestion problem:

--Viewers prefer a complete library of a TV show’s reruns, not just the current season, or a package of seasons with an end date, or other variations, says FreeWheel.

“Full Library programming achieved four times the reach, based on volume of unique viewers over the course of a quarter,” this report says, “and a +52% increase in frequency measured by episodes consumed per viewer” compared to rotational plays.

FreeWheel says that means viewers want an “end-to-end solution” to watch favorite shows, start to finish.

--A program returning for a second season will attract twice as many unique viewers as a show in its first year. That seems logical to me--the returning show has been deemed a “success” by Nielsen or the more mysterious metrics used by Amazon or Netflix.  

What FreeWheel adds is that the show in its second season (or beyond) will get the same number of average views.

That is proof, in FreeWheel’s point of view, that “Programmers need to offer viewers time to navigate this cluttered media ecosystem and discover new content. Due to this, programs need breathing room. One season is simply no longer enough to gauge success or failure of a program.”

Familiarity breeds binge viewers.

Otherwise, FreeWheel continues its upbeat assessment of authentication, concluding that the very act of punching in your code is a promising sign of viewer engagement.

(Well, OK. Standing in a long, inefficient line to get a hot dog is a sign of engagement, by that standard. But it is not a positive part of the hot dog-eating experience,  It’s just a mandatory means to an end. But I digress.)

The report says authenticated viewers see 129% more ads than the non-authenticated folks.  An authenticated viewer sees, on average, 24.3 ad views per session. A non-auth viewer sees just 10.6.

In all, 72% of all “TV-style” viewing online happens via authentication and year over year there’s been a 142% uptick in authenticated ad views.

The report, based on analysis of  55 billion views in Q1, also has good news for ad completion rates. In long-form shows, they reach 94% (and a point higher for live). By device, the completion rate zooms to 93% on OTT devices and goes down to 78% for smartphones.

By type, 78% of pre-roll ads are seen to completion, and 94% of mid-roll.

If you imagine OTT is a TV-screen like viewing experience, that mid-roll ad is a familiar living room intruder. It’s been there since TV was invented, just about. And the mid-roll break now lasts 91 seconds on average (and a whopping 120 seconds in live streams). FYI, live content grew 129% year over year.

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