I’m bullish on ad-based free streaming channels on Connected TVs. eMarketer projected the CTV ad market would grow to $14B in 2023, double the 2019 figure. Why is the Free Ad-based Streaming TV market, or FAST, so hot?
Because after a decade of flubs by TV OEMs, they’ve finally nailed it. Many licensed Roku. Others, Android TV. Samsung iterated to get steadily better. LG’s Web OS was good from the get-go. And Vizio’s revamped SmartCast gained accolades at CES. This is in addition to the blockbuster success of OTT set-tops like Roku and Fire TV. Another factor? The rapidly maturing live linear streaming tech stack. It is far less glitchy and buffery than a year ago even, and costs are dropping.
It adds up. Unboxing a TV is a new game. Just connect to Wi-fi and watch hundreds of free channels of news, sports and entertainment within seconds. No roof climbing. No scanning. No input switching. No cable guy.
And more are coming. The Consumer Technology Association projected 41 million new TVs will be shipped in the US this year. Nielsen says we have 120 million homes. Just spit-balling here, but every three years we’re sending another new TV -- with hundreds of free streaming channels -- to every home in America?
So why should we curb our enthusiasm?
YouTube launched “YouTube Select,” replacing and expanding its prior Google Preferred solution, which was a curated selection of top YouTube channels. In a blog post, Vishal Sharma, VP, Product Management for YouTube Ads said in a blog post that YouTube Select will also include “emerging lineups” which are “up and coming or niche channels” in categories like beauty and fashion, entertainment, technology, sport and other.
With the new program, YouTube is expanding the quantity of content it is curating and ensuring as brand safe, further targeting connected TV viewers. YouTube said it will give advertisers the option to “only serve ads on videos that have been machine classified and human-verified.” Brand safety is a critical consideration for traditional TV ad buyers who have been a target audience for Google Preferred.
In challenging times for marketing, creative quality is more important than ever. Today, most advertisers (63%) are adjusting messaging to meet the moment, including increases in mission-based (+42%) and cause-related (+41%) marketing, according to a recent IAB survey.
Here are three best practices to adapt streaming creative while consumers shelter in place.
After a period of relative consistency, connected TV’s share of ad impressions has varied widely in recent months, according to Extreme Reach’s Video Benchmarks Report for Q1 ’20 and through May 11th. CTV ad impression share stayed in a tight range from 47%-51% for each quarter of 2019. But in January they dropped to 41%, in February to 35%, in March to 36% and in the first two weeks of April to 29%. However, in the period from April 15 to May 11, they rebounded to 42%.
Topics: Extreme Reach
NBCUniversal used its One Industry Update livestream to emphasize that improving the viewer and advertiser experience remains a top priority. Laura Molen, President, Advertising Sales and Partnerships, said “this moment has only accelerated our efforts to make the ad experience more engaging for consumers and more effective for advertisers.” She continued, “I know we talk a lot about commercial time - and we’re still committed to bring that number way down.”
The postponement and cancelation of every major sports league has created an entirely new reality for marketers and broadcasters alike. Sports have emerged as the absent center of the media landscape, one that has come to symbolize the disruption from COVID-19 in our industry.
It makes it easy to forget that, before the sudden pause, the value of live sports was coming under serious scrutiny. The NBA’s TV ratings were down dramatically. The Olympics, March Madness, MLB, and other marquee sports properties are demonstrating similar trends. Super Bowl ratings this year had inched upward - but it was the first time that had happened in five years, and the multi-year downward trend for the landmark game is unlikely to change course.
Across the board, traditionally reported sports TV ratings were down, and it all begs the still-pressing question: should networks and advertisers freak out?
Topics: 4C Insights
Roku has launched OneView Ad Platform, a demand side platform (DSP), enabling ad buyers with a set of self-serve tools to create and manage campaigns across screens and ad formats. The move positions Roku to further increase the value of viewing data from its 40 million active accounts to help ad buyers allocate their TV, OTT and digital spending more effectively. As Dan Robbins, VP of Ad Marketing and Partner Solutions told me in a briefing “OneView Ad Platform is informed by TV but built to be omnichannel.” Launch partners include Drizly, Experian, Intuit TurboTax, Lexus and others.
New research from Hub Entertainment Research has found that the average number of TV services used per viewer reached 4.8 in April 2020, vs 3 in 2018, a rise of over 50%. Hub includes all TV services in the mix - pay-TV, SVOD and AVOD. Hub found that more viewers are using SVOD services, and those that are use multiple services. 74% used either Netflix, Amazon or Hulu in April, 2020 vs. 70% a year earlier. And 46% of viewers used two or more of these services in April, 2020 compared with 43% a year earlier.
Video adtech provider Beachfront has launched in beta a pod bidding solution for connected TV ads. The solution allows publishers to programmatically sell an entire ad pod while pricing each ad differently and guaranteeing positions within the pod. Guaranteeing first position would be especially valuable for CTV publishers to be able to optimize for advertisers who are willing to pay a premium to be in the first slot of a pod.
Beachfront founder and president Frank Sinton told me in a briefing that this kind of preference has been available in a direct sale model for CTVs, but not in programmatic. Choosing first position has long been part of the traditional TV buying world, but Frank said that because a lot of the ad infrastructure used for CTV is based on desktop and mobile this capability has been missing. CTV advertising is growing strongly, with eMarketer forecasting over $10 billion in spending next year.
Topics: Beachfront Media
A new survey from FreeWheel has found that 80% of Americans say they’re spending more time watching TV and streaming video during the pandemic. The results are the latest to find that screen time is up as viewers shelter-at-home. In the survey, 49% of respondents cited News as what they’re watching more of, followed closely by Comedies (48%) and Dramas (41%). Sports was last with 7%, not surprising given the absence of live sports.
FreeWheel also probed viewers’ attitudes toward advertising during the pandemic and found an overwhelming 9 out of 10 said advertising is still appropriate. However, half of these respondents said only certain types of ads are appropriate. Almost 60% said advertisers should incorporate specific virus messaging into their ads, but the caveat is that it must be done tastefully.
Due to the COVID-19 virus, VideoNuze's Connected TV Advertising Summit will be held on a new date, Tuesday, September 22, 2020. The venue continues to be the Westin NY at Times Square. There is a lot of uncertainty about how the stay-at-home and social distancing guidelines will be updated in the coming months. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that better days are ahead soon and we'll return to some normalcy by September.
I'm extremely grateful to the CTV Ad Summit's 8 partners who have been incredibly supportive. Our Presenting partner is Deloitte; Gold partners are Extreme Reach and SpringServe; Silver partners include Beachfront, SpotX, Roku and Xandr and Branding Partner Verizon Media. Please contact me if you’d like to learn more about sponsorship opportunities.
Discounted early bird tickets are available through August 28th (If you’ve already bought tickets, I’ll be in touch with you directly). I'll have more updates in the coming months. In the meantime please stay safe and well.
Side note: As we’re all aware, during this stay-at-home period, the amount of streaming entertainment and news video has surged, including on Connected TVs. If you’re interested in the latest usage and industry data being shared by industry leaders, check out our free Coronavirus Video Industry Research Hub.
Continuing our series of short interviews with industry leaders sharing their insights about the impact of the coronavirus, below is an exchange with Philip Inghelbrecht, Co-Founder and CEO of Tatari, a data and analytics provider for linear TV and OTT advertising. I hope these interviews are helping readers better understand the state of the market. Please also check out our Coronavirus Video Industry Research Hub, which I'm constantly updating with new industry data and reports.
Roku shared upbeat estimates on its Q1 ’20 active accounts, streaming hours and profitability yesterday, ahead of its May 7th earnings release. Roku said active accounts were approximately 39.8 million at the end of the quarter, up almost 3 million during the 3 months. That’s 49% higher than the 2 million active accounts it added in Q1 ’19. Roku has nearly doubled its active account base in the past 2 years; back on March 31, 2018 it was 20.8 million.
Streaming hours in Q1 ’20 also surged, to 13.2 billion, up 49% from 8.1 billion in Q1 ’19 and more than double the 5.1 billion hours from Q1 ’18. The increase in streaming hours is noteworthy because Roku said that in Q1 it finished rolling out its “Are you still watching?” feature which prompts the viewer after 4 hours of viewing and will terminate the session if there’s inactivity. The feature would suppress growth in streaming hours because sessions when people have fallen asleep or left the room would not play on indefinitely. The other impact is that for free, ad-supported services being watched on Roku and for Roku itself, ad inventory and monetization would be suppressed.
A new survey released by video ad platform Unruly has found, among other things, that younger users are spending more time with their phones and connected TVs in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The survey revealed that 86% of 18-24 year-olds are either spending “a lot more” or “a little more” time than before on mobile phones. Other age groups are close behind; 25-34 year-olds (83%) and 35-44 year-olds (84%), with 45-54 year-olds (62%) and 55+ year-olds (44%) trailing.
Time with connected TVs has also surged, with 66% of 18-24 year-olds either spending “a lot more” or “a little more” time than before on CTVs, with all other age groups up as well: 25-34 year-olds (76%), 35-44 year-olds (72%), 45-54 year-olds (60%) and 55+ year-olds (46%).
As stay at home guidelines remain in place, it seems like more and more free TV and video are being made available, spanning the short and long ends of the tail (meaning super-premium through user-generated) - and everything in between. Not only does this create more choices for viewers, which will be welcomed, it also means more competition for subscription video services which were already vulnerable to belt-tightening. And for free TV/video that is ad-supported, it means more inventory and choices for advertisers.
Here’s what’s caught my eye just in the past week:
As part of VideoNuze's coverage of the virus's impact on the TV/video industries, we're publishing a series of short interviews with industry thought-leaders. The goal is to have them share relevant details of how their companies are experiencing the virus's impact, to help us all be better informed in our decision-making. Today's interview is with Joe Hirsch, CEO of SpringServe, a leading independent video ad platform. A few key takeaways from the interview: CTV is posting the biggest percentage growth, sports channel viewership is holding up, ad demand is dropping (consistent with IAB research) and publishers are digging into operations to squeeze out every dollar they can.
Read on for the full interview. And also check out our Coronavirus Video Industry Research Hub for more data and insights.
VideoNuze: Which categories of viewing are spiking as people are staying at home?
The IAB released new research on Friday afternoon indicating connected TV (CTV) and over-the-top (OTT) video are likely to benefit from ad spending shifts caused by the coronavirus. In a survey of approximately 400 agency and brand decision-makers, 35% of respondents said they anticipate increasing their use of OTT/CTV device targeting, second only to audience targeting (38%), with mobile/tablet (34%) in third place.
Supporting the IAB research, last Friday Beachfront said it has seen a 105% increase in average daily CTV ad requests in March vs. February. Founder Frank Sinton noted that typically only big sports events drive these kinds of bumps in usage. There have been many other reports of surging CTV/OTT usage since stay-at-home guidelines have been implemented.
Everyone is struggling to adapt to the new realities of life with the coronavirus. One of the big side effects is a spike in stay-at-home viewing of both ad-supported (AVOD) and subscription-supported (SVOD) video. Changes in consumption are being strongly influenced by the suspension of live sports and the postponement of this summer's Olympics. In addition, billions of dollars of ad spending are being reviewed - either to be reallocated elsewhere currently, eliminated or banked for the future.
A lot of valuable data and insights are being provided by industry leaders that helps us better understand these rapidly-shifting times. I will be trying to curate as many of the links to all of it as possible on a daily basis on this Coronavirus Video Industry Research hub, which is part of our sister site, VideoNuze iQ (where lots of other great industry data is also available).
If you have data or insights to share, please send them to me, along with appropriate links and any other suggestions you might have. I'll be contributing interviews with industry leaders as well. Hopefully this hub can assist all of us in getting through these challenging times.
There are a lot of questions swirling these days about how ad spending is going to be reallocated given the virus's interruption of live sports. I'll be publishing a series of short interviews with industry thought-leaders sharing their current experiences and what changes they're seeing due to the virus. The first interview is with Jeremy Steinberg, Global Head of Ecosystem, MediaMath, which is an adtech company serving brands and their partners (also known as a demand side platform).
VideoNuze: What are you seeing so far from clients in terms of shifting spending from live content (e.g. sports, etc.) that have been cancelled to AVOD?
Jeremy Steinberg: Brands and agencies are obviously rethinking their marketing strategies. Because we are seeing a significant uptick in OTT viewership as daily consumer behavior is shifting with more individuals staying at home and we have recommended to our clients that they should re-invest their media budgets into home-based channels most specifically CTV. We are seeing budgets pulled from live sports and many other channels including experiential. Quality of the content has never been more critical, as clients across all industry verticals demand the purity of the connections between brands and consumers. They are focused on reaching real people on real devices, as we see consumers purchasing more goods and services and streaming more content at home.
VideoNuze readers will recall that several months ago I made a prediction that Netflix would launch a lower cost (around $5-$7 per month) ad-supported tier in 2020. I predicted this despite Netflix management having steadfastly resisted the model, because I believed the logic was just so compelling and straightforward that no “religious” argument to the contrary would preclude it.
However, a month after posting, on Netflix’s Q4 ’19 earnings call, management once again rejected the idea. In my and other analysts’ view, Netflix offered what seemed to amount to a “we can’t chew gum and walk at the same time” argument that focused on its perceived inability to compete effectively with the ad triopoly of Google, Facebook and Amazon. Despite CTV ad dollars being scooped up by the likes of Hulu, CBS All Access and other premium video providers, Netflix somehow concluded it simply couldn’t play.
With the coronavirus upending life and prompting a surge in stay-at-home viewing, I’d like to suggest 6 reasons why now would be the absolute perfect time for Netflix to announce a lower priced ($5-$7 per month) ad-supported tier (note to readers: feel free to let me know if I’m missing something colossally obvious that would negate my assertion).