An article I read last week in Mediaweek about new comScore research which concluded more ads are tolerable in online-delivered TV programs really intrigued me. The research was presented by Tania Yuki, comScore's director of cross media and video products at an Advertising Research Foundation meeting. I called Tania to follow up and learn more about the data. Today I'm pleased to share her presentation with the research findings as a complimentary PDF download. Outside of the ARF meeting, this is the first time this data has been made available.
As VideoNuze readers know, I've been a proponent of increasing the number of ads in online TV shows, in order to improve their economics. Note, I'm not advocating a jump to 18-20 minutes of ads typically found in on-air distribution that would likely turn users off. But I do believe that the current model of 3-4 minutes of ads in premium network programs is way too light, and that viewers will tolerate more without any drop-off in usage, particularly if the ads are well-targeted and engaging. ABC has told me in the past that research it conducted when it experimented with doubling its ad load corroborated this point, just as the comScore research now does as well. Just last week the CW announced it would double the number of ads in its online-delivered programs.
Increasing the number of ads - and thereby strengthening the economic model for online-delivered TV - is critical for the industry to succeed long-term. The current lack of economic parity between online and on-air is gaining urgency; just last week when Hulu blocked access to its content via the new Kylo browser (meant for on-TV browsing), we were reminded of the absurd lengths to which the popular site will go to prevent its viewership from migrating to TVs. This is because Hulu was conceived as an online-only augment. Given its lack of economic parity with on-air (or with DVR viewing, as ABC.com is now achieving), Hulu on TV would undermine its owners' P&Ls.
The new comScore research concludes that viewers will tolerate 6-7 minutes of "total advertising time" during online-delivered TV programs. And note that this response reflects expectations of conventional advertising. I think it's quite possible that if respondents had been shown the kinds of targeted, entertaining and interactive video ads that blip.TV and others are now offering, they would have said their tolerance would be even higher. Providing further comfort that more ads are reasonable, when asked about the most important reasons for watching TV online, the answers were first, "Missed an episode on TV" (71%) and second, "Convenience" (57%). A distant third was "Less ads" (38%). Ad avoidance is important to online viewers, but it isn't their sole motivator.
The comScore research further underscores the growing importance of online, particularly in terms of raising programs' visibility and sampling. For example, for people who watch both on TV and online, an "online video site" (28%) is already the third most-cited way of discovering new TV shows, following "TV advertising" (59%) and "Friend/family member recommendation" (44%). Related, 28% said that they believed that if they hadn't been made aware of their favorite program online first, they probably wouldn't have discovered it on TV, and therefore would have missed the show entirely. Across all respondents, 20% of shows watched regularly had been watched first online.
As Tania reminded me, TV is still by far the dominant platform for viewing TV programs and that it's important to remember that online-only viewing is nascent. ComScore's research found that only 6% of respondents tune-in online only, though another 29% view both online and on-air. The key for me is looking toward the future. When the 6% of online-only viewers is broken down by age groups, about 75% are between 18-34. And if my 8 and 10-year old kids are any example, no doubt that those under 18 are only going to be even more avid online video viewers. In order for the TV industry to succeed in the future, it is essential that the business models to sustain online viewing be figured out pronto.
For this research, comScore which surveyed 1,825 people from its U.S.-only panel, weighted to match the total online population in age, income and gender. The research was conducted between Dec. 30, 2009 and Jan. 22, 2010. It was not sponsored by any third-party.
VideoNuze is the authoritative online source for original analysis and news aggregation focused on the burgeoning online video industry. Founded in 2007 by Will Richmond, a 20-year veteran of the broadband, cable TV, content and technology industries, VideoNuze is read by executive-level decision-makers who need to get beyond the standard headlines and achieve a deep understanding of online video’s disruptive impact.