Clogged Pipes: Viewers Not Turned Off by Online Ads

FreeWheel study eyes growing tolerance for online spots

Viewers of online and mobile video are being bombarded by a seemingly endless fusillade of ads, and while clutter does no one any favors, completion rates are holding steady.

According to a new report from the video monetization firm FreeWheel, video ad views are growing at a faster rate than content views. In the third quarter of 2011, FreeWheel served up some 7.2 billion video ad views, more than double (128 percent) the 3.1 billion spots viewed in the year-ago period. At the same time, digital video content views increased 97 percent to 11.8 billion.

The FreeWheel report aggregates usage data for its clients, a clutch of content providers that includes broadcast networks (CBS, Fox, Univision) and cable groups (Viacom, ESPN, Turner Entertainment, Discovery Communications).

By and large, the growth in video ad deliveries is being spurred on by beefier spot loads within long-form content. When users view full-length episodic programming, whether it’s a 22-minute sitcom or a scripted drama, they are likely to see as many as five ads within the content per sitting. That marks a sequential increase of 73 percent, a function of the latter portion of the third quarter coinciding with the start of the broadcast TV season.

Despite the heavier spot loads, users watched 82 percent of the ads slotted within online comedies and dramas. That’s up a hair from 81 percent in the second quarter of 2011.

If long-form content can support as many as four ad views per episode, short-form video appears to be a far less sustainable environment for commercial messaging. According to FreeWheel data, users will sit through just 59 percent of the ads seeded in and around clips (sports highlights, news segments, music videos, etc.).

While episodic video usage mimics that of linear TV in that the majority is viewed between 8 p.m. and 11 p.m., shorter formats command their own prime time. Per FreeWheel, users watch more short-form digital video between the hours of 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. than at any other time of day. (Get back to work, people.)

Viewing on a PC or laptop increases throughout the day, peaking at 2 p.m. before gradually declining throughout the evening. At around 5 p.m., video viewing on mobile devices eclipses PC viewing; both mobile and iPad views peak at around 10:30 p.m.

As long as consumers continue to tolerate commercial interruptions—a handful of ads are the price of admission for what might otherwise be offered at a premium—content providers are more than happy to simulate standard TV loads in the digital space. Naturally, online and mobile video isn’t about to unseat the tube any time soon.

According to parent company Google, a roadblock on YouTube’s homepage costs $100,000 per day. By comparison, that same amount would buy you a single 30-second spot on NBC’s Law & Order: SVU. Hypothetically, $100,000 would be good for six seconds on Sunday Night Football, 15 seconds on Mike & Molly, and two spots in Gossip Girl.

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