• Time is Right for AVOD Downloading

    Longtime VideoNuze readers will recall that nearly 7 years ago I started espousing the benefits of being able to download long-form video to mobile devices, so consumption could continue when offline or when only spotty or expensive wireless connections were available.

    TiVo pioneered this capability with its Stream device, which initially let users download programming from their TiVo to an iOS device. As a user, this presented the valuable benefit of unlocking all my recorded content to watch on my iPad or iPhone wherever I was (planes, trains, etc).

    Over the years a variety of SVOD providers have enabled downloading; Amazon was an early adopter and Netflix a reluctant, but ultimately innovative, adopter. Others like HBO Now, Showtime, Starz, CBS All Access, CuriosityStream and Crunchyroll all now allow viewers to download and watch offline. At the recent launch event for Disney+, company CEO Bob Iger said everything in the service will be downloadable (which is going to make long car trips with kids far more pleasurable!). I’m assuming downloading will be a staple of Apple TV+ too.

    With so many popular services offering downloading, it’s no surprise watching offline has become a mainstream behavior (if you’re reading this, you’re probably a regular downloader).

    However, one persistent theme is that downloading has been mainly offered by SVOD providers, not those who rely fully or partially on advertising. And in fact, many viewers prefer willingly accept ads rather than pay for video; Hulu’s head of ad sales Peter Naylor noted at the recent VideoNuze Video Ad Summit that 58 million of Hulu’s 82 million monthly viewers take a tier with ads.

    But AVOD providers have been on the sidelines as fans of their programming look to SVOD sources to satisfy their offline viewing habits. That means diminished loyalty and lost ad revenue, but most importantly it means failing to live up to users’ expectations. AVOD providers have been at a disadvantage as downloading has soared.

    As Penthera, which provides video downloading software to many SVOD providers explains in a recent white paper, offline viewing with ads is far more complicated, raising thorny issues around keeping the ads that were downloaded with the video timely/relevant, measurable and interactive.

    Penthera is addressing these ad downloading issues by using a similar approach it has with video downloading. For example, even when a user has closed out an AVOD app, Penthera can still inspect whether downloaded ads are currently valid, and if not, the provider can set them to refresh with popular ad servers they may use like FreeWheel, Google Ads, SpotX and others. Penthera also uses beacons to record when an ad has been watched, so it can be billed properly. Because interactivity isn’t possible when offline, Penthera envisions a “click here” model that allows users to express interest and have a follow up notification sent when back online.

    Penthera has begun testing its AVOD capability with a limited number of content partners and is looking to roll out more broadly soon. As it does, AVOD providers will not only have feature parity with SVOD to help gain/retain audience, but they’ll have incremental ad inventory and monetization opportunities. Lately connected TV has justifiably attracted a lot of attention. But if downloading gains further momentum among AVOD providers, it could potentially have a big impact on driving mobile consumption.