May 2011 Nielsen vs. ComScore Online Video Numbers

May 2011 Nielsen vs. ComScore Online Video Numbers

It's time once again to take a look at the previous month's online video viewing numbers and statistics. This time, I waited until I got them from both the two major statistics firms, comScore and Nielsen, before writing anything up. It gives a clearer picture when you're able to compare the two. Not at all surprising is the fact that they still don't match up with one another. Both organizations rely on their own secret methodology, which means we can't really ever know which set of numbers is more accurate.

May 2011 Nielsen vs. ComScore Online Video Numbers

As expected, YouTube tops the lists, though the numbers are far from matching. Oddly, VEVO tops both unique viewers and viewing sessions from comScore but Hulu trumps streams in the Nielsen numbers. This is the inherent problem I think with the reporting. Nielsen does streams while comScore does 'sessions' which could theoretically be multiple streams. Either that, or they're not labeling things properly. If we were to combine the two it would appear that the average Hulu user watched four streams per session and so did the average YouTube user.

But it's not that easy because the disparity between unique viewers is pretty massive with Nielsen reporting just 14 million for Hulu while comScore reported some 28.5.

If you believe comScore, Yahoo topped Facebook in unique viewers which is opposite of Nielsen's numbers meanwhile Hulu tops AOL while comScore lists AOL at some 50% more than Hulu.

Who did not make both lists:

  • Viacom does not appear on Nielsen, is 5th on comScore, would be #2 on Nielsen
  • Turner does not appear on Nielsen, 8th on comScore, would be #3 on Nielsen (without above)
  • NBCU does not appear on Nielsen, 9th on comScore, would be #3 on Nielsen (without above)
  • The College Humor Network does not appear on comScore, is 8th on Nielsen (would be lower than 10th on comScore
  • FOX is 9th and CNN is 10th on Nielsen, both would not rank on comScore anyway.

A compiled Top Five online video services by unique visitors

Since the two can't play well together, I'll add it all up for you.

  1. Youtube (147M + 112M)
  2. VEVO (almost 97M combined)
  3. Yahoo! (81.6M)
  4. Facebook (77.4M)
  5. Microsoft (64.4M)

AOL would be 6th on that list, Viacom would be 7th (no combined results) and Hulu would be 8th while Turner and NBCU would round out a top ten but only based on comScore numbers since they don't show up on Nielsen's charts.

Apples? Oranges? More Like Trichoplax adhaerens and Protopterus aethiopicus (Genetically)

What the hell is that subheader all about? Well Trichoplax adhaerens has the smallest amount of DNA known to man while the Protoperus aethiopicus has the largest. That's literally a 20-30 cell organism versus a marbled lungfish…

You know they hate when I do this right? I generally get emails from both sides. However, I see it as an inherent problem in the online video industry and thus am compelled to point out the glaring differences.

Maybe we need just one big reporting agency that offers full transparency into its methods and its numbers gathering (and doesn't force you to pay a fee to be included). Because these two will never be able to agree on anything and give wildly varying numbers. How can we trust either one when they look this different? More importantly, how do we know which to trust? I mean, they're not the most forthcoming about all of their methods, who is and is not included in their surveys and often claim proprietary this and that. That's not what I personally want from my research organization.

In science, they say that a theory is ready to become a law when other scientists have been able to recreate the exact experiments and get the same results. I dare you to get the same results as either Nielsen or comScore. It's impossible since we don't even know what the exact experiment is…

comScore Video Ad Top Ten

Nielsen doesn't track this but it's important to many of us here at ReelSEO, so I wasn't going to leave it out. Hulu keeps on trucking showing far more ads per viewer than the average and still only reaching some 9.2% of the US total population.

On the upside Brightroll is showing the lowest number of ads (7.1) per viewer and reaching the largest percentage of the US total population (26.4%) Ker-Pow! Blam! If that's not a one-two punch to the melon telling you where to put your video ads, well I don't know what else to tell you. Even Tremor has 10.8 ads per viewer and just 21.4% reach and Adap.tv has 10.9 and 19.5% respectively. SpotX has a pretty low ApV but also only reach 11.2%. Not a bad alternative I suppose. Plus, they've got Otto on their side (their auto-optimization deal for video ads).

Top U.S. Online Video Properties by Video Ads* Viewed
Ranked by Video Ads Viewed
May 2011
Total U.S. – Home/Work/University Locations
Source: comScore Video Metrix
PropertyVideo Ads (000)Total Ad Minutes (MM)Frequency (Ads per Viewer)% Reach Total U.S. Population
Total Internet : Total Audience4,608,8332,05233.745.4%
Hulu1,319,99556047.69.2%
Tremor Media Video Network**700,76941010.821.4%
Adap.tv†641,63237510.919.5%
BrightRoll Video Network**564,9383387.126.4%
Undertone**291,18515810.88.9%
Microsoft Sites268,4251429.89.0%
Viacom Digital265,76512311.77.6%
CBS Interactive258,8409211.37.6%
SpotXchange Video Ad Network**257,7961587.711.2%
ABC Television181,6957222.72.7%

*Video ads include streaming-video advertising only and do not include other types of video monetization, such as overlays, branded players, matching banner ads, homepage ads, etc.
**Indicates video ad network
†Indicates video ad exchange

Here's something totally fascinating to me, ABC shows 22.7 ApV while CBS shows 11.3, and they have almost 3x the reach! If you asked me which network was "winning" I would have to say CBS I guess, even without Mr. Sheen (who I admire for his pure insanity and daring actually, I wish his publicist would contact me for an interview about online video). Neither FOX nor NBC made the lists and CW or whatever they are is gone as well. A quick check showed CBS has 5 shows I follow… could be why I follow them?

This is all in-stream ads only remember and not taking into account companion ads or video ads in display ad placements. That's the one thing I really dig about comScore, their definition of a video ad and mine, jive 100%.


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Posted in Video Trends & Research
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About the Author -
Christophor Rick is a freelance writer specializing in technology, new media, video games, IPTV, online video advertising and consumer electronics. His past work has included press releases, copy-writing, travel writing and journalism. He also writes novel-length and short fiction as part of Three-Faced Media . View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=684615046 Greg Jarboe

    Great analysis

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1177363116 Mark Robertson

      Thanks Greg. I love that you support us. Any more thought into becoming a contributor? Id actually give you links back and even pay you a bit :)

  • http://transcriptdivas.com/ Andrew

    Great comparison. Refreshing for once that a "made for public/possible new client consumption" report by a market research firm is not just taken at face value. Good technique in comparing two biased data sets to try and determine some sort of consensus. Excellent work.

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