2013 Agency Reports Paint Digital Video Advertising as an Industry in Flux

If you’re anything like me, you’ve got a TV in your living room — but you don’t use it for watching cable television. Together my Samsung Flatscreen, Playstation3, and desktop computer work in concert to achieve an awkward and stupidly-overpriced Netflix and HBOGO machine, which apart from Sunday nights, goes mostly untouched.

This approach to home entertainment baffles my parents. The notion that I wouldn’t simply get cable and be done with it seems completely alien to them — little do they know me and my stubborn tangle of wires are so commonplace, we’re now officially a demographic.

Online Video ProductionMigration to Web Video

In their Cross-Platform Report for Q4 2012, consumer reporting juggernaut Nielsen announced in an unprecedented special report that from now on they will be measuring the behavior of what they termed “Zero-TV” households: people who’ve stopped watching broadcast television altogether in favor of internet-based video content.

While we “Zero-TV”ers might be a little more ascetic than most, there’s no question that online audiences can’t be ignored even by old-media giants: digital analytics reporting company comScore revealed in their latest Media Metrix Video Rankings Report that Americans watched 39.3 billion online videos in March of 2013 alone. We even viewed an all-time high of 13.2 billion advertising videos *** — no surprise when we consider that according to the annual Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Report released last month, in 2012 digital video advertising dollars topped the $1 billion-mark for the first time.

With more video content and advertising dollars rolling in to create a new and improved web-television experience, from the looks of it we “Zero-TV”ers will have the last laugh.


*** Though I feel comScore’s “view” data is flawed in its methodology — any one second viewing of a clip counts as a view — it’s still useful to see the widening range of video “impressions”. Engagement with advertising videos will be addressed below.

The Video Fizzle

The only problem is there aren’t that many of us “Zero-TV” households (Nielsen estimates only about 5 million nationwide), and the pace of online video consumption has actually slowed. We love to watch videos more than ever, but the latest round of reporting suggests, as crazy as it sounds, we’re actually beginning to saturate the internet marketplace.

As Chris Johnston at ReelSEO correctly points out in comScore’s accompanying Year-Over-Year reporting, both the number of unique online viewers and minutes per viewer have nearly flatlined; it looks like the majority of the people who want to watch video online, are already doing it. This coincides with FreeWheel’s 2012 Video Monetization Report, which warns that video advertising is overtaking created content with a monumental YOY increase in volume of 47%, compared to the 23% YOY increase in total video views.

Video advertising trends :: what that means is all of us are seeing a lot more video ads — not because we’ve found new YouTube channels or we’re spending more time watching videos, but because advertisers are turning up the heat. The weird thing is we don’t seem to mind.

The Primetime Effect

The juiciest nugget in the newest FreeWheel reporting data is that YOY, the percentage of viewers that watch ads through to completion are up across the board. If a video is ‘long-form’ (>20 minutes), 93% of viewers will watch every ad all the way through; 81% of ads in ‘mid-form’ videos (5–20 minutes) get complete views. To those naysayers insisting that the data is skewed from the ‘forced view’ tactics of Hulu and VEVO, etc., 68% of ads from ‘short-form’ videos (

It’s as if our living room habits have migrated to our browsers: we’re okay with our viewing experience getting interrupted — after all, we usually only have to deal with one meager pre-roll/mid-roll video at each break in the content — and with the majority of ads being only 15–30s long, internet audiences still get a way better bargain than tuning in for the barrage of commercials at primetime. Even though I can’t avoid ads (assuming I avoid certain disreputable peg-legged internet practices), my style of streaming Hulu through my living room still feels like I’m cheating the system.

Welcome to OldTube

…Which we all know doesn’t last for long. The main takeaway here is that if the 2013 data continues its current trends, our web video experience is probably going transition radically to the familiar. With the number of new viewers beginning to level-out, advertisers have to find new ways to expand their messaging. Because the ads themselves don’t appear to be deal-breakers — especially for web-based television programming — expect to see more 30-second ads during your mid-roll breaks. Just like regular commercials.

Also because the explosive growth of new viewers is finally subsided, a way for content owners to turn a quick buck is to expand where they syndicate: I expect we’ll start to see channels that used to be YouTube- or Hulu-exclusives start appearing just about everywhere to take advantage of those extra ad dollars. By the same token, savvy content providers will find new ways to create additional options for syndication (I’m looking at you, newly-added YouTube Paid Channels) — or try and lock down their most popular content and start demanding subscription fees. Just like television networks.

Commercials. Television networks. With advertising and analytics companies striving to find ways to migrate old broadcast television best-practices to the internet, OldTube is coming fast. The only improvement over traditional broadcast TV is that the online advertising we’ll encounter will always be relevant to your interests, thanks to browsing privacy becoming a thing of the past. So the future of online video looks, well, a lot like TV, with a little interactivity and creepiness thrown in for spice.

Maybe it’s time I just call the cable guy.

Meet Phil Bridge

Phil is the Video Production Manager for Launch Digital Marketing. When he's not in the editing suite or honing his motion graphic design, Phil enjoys the occasional dusty tome, great films, trying to cook like his Nonna, studying Iaido, and playing metal guitar.