Since I went through all the trouble of making a set of cool charts and graphs to track the whole year of comScore's Video Metrix for 2012, I thought I would also take the time to do a bit of post-year analysis. While there were some late year fluctuations in certain areas it seems that, based on the way comScore measures things, it was fairly uneventful overall. However, a disturbing trend is arising...
As always, I have to call out comScores's terrible definition of a video is (in essence, a view):
A video is defined as any streamed segment of audiovisual content, including both progressive downloads and live streams. For long-form, segmented content, (e.g. television episodes with ad pods in the middle) each segment of the content is counted as a distinct video stream.Video views are inclusive of both user-initiated and auto-played videos that are viewed for longer than 3 seconds.
The major issues I have are that they state 3 seconds is a view, a chunk of content between ads is a video and that they incorporate auto-played videos.
First of all, 3 seconds of a one hour video is a view? That's just silly as it is roughly 0.08% of the entire video. Even for a 15-minute video it's just 0.33% of the video. Of course, they are counting each segment of ad-divided video content as a video. If each segment is roughly 5 minutes then it's a whopping 1%. They state the average duration of online video content was 5.4 minutes, so 3 seconds is less than 1% of those videos.
"Video ads accounted for 20.8 percent of all videos viewed and 1.8 percent of all minutes spent viewing video online."
Secondly, the break up of a single piece of content because of ads over-inflates the actual videos viewed number almost incalculably. Without knowing how many videos were broken up by ads we don't even know how many videos were actually seen.
Finally, auto-played videos don't necessarily translate into videos viewed. So including them adds some arbitrary number of videos viewed. I've accidentally seen 3 seconds of plenty of auto-played videos, that doesn't mean I was actually watching them. I open websites in tabs and continue doing something else and then hear some strange sounds meaning the video auto-played.
2012 Videos Viewed
In a perfect measurement system, auto-play videos would not be included and counting a video as 'viewed' would require at least 50%. Then again, doing that would seriously slash viewing numbers and that would be bad for business, or that's how I have to believe comScore rationalizes their inaccurate measurements. Then again, it could simply be a limitation of their technology, if so, it needs to be remedied quite soon.
Videos viewed started the year at its highest point ever, just under 40 billion (39.995849 million). It didn't reach 39B again until November and didn't manage to hit it in December. I find that strange as video ads themselves blew up in 2012 which saw us go from one ad network with a billion ads views monthly to six.
For example, in January of 2012 there were 39.995B videos and just 5.558B video ads, while in December it was 38.673B videos and 11.32B ads. That's 6 billion more video ad views across one billion less content videos. No wonder more people aren't being drawn into online video viewing and overall video views are shrinking rather than growing.
Minutes per viewer also shrank throughout 2012 starting at around 1354 per viewer and except for a blip in September, dropped consistently over the year to a low in December of just 1150.
2012 Video Metrix - Online Video Viewers
This was the most static of all numbers in the monthly report. The peak for the year was 188.016 million and the low point was 179.112 a difference of just 9 million or roughly 4.8% of the peak. It seems that we have hit a critical mass in terms of US population since it hasn't really grown all year (the peak number was August). January was 181 million and December was 182 million. This could increase if connected TVs continue their growing install base, currently estimated to be 25-30% of American households, but other factors like broadband access and speed combined with socioeconomic inequality will ensure a steady gap between population and online video viewers. Then again, bigger, better, more affordable smartphones and plans could also help this grow. Of course, comScore doesn't give a breakdown of devices used to access the online video in their reports.
2012 Video Metrix: Online Video Advertising
2012 was a banner year for online video advertising as there was massive growth, which might prove detrimental to the overall growth of online video. In January there were just 4.76 billion video ads against 39.95 billion videos. In December, it was 11.87 billion video ads against 38.67 billion content videos. Oddly, comScore's December 2012 report states just 11.322 billion video ads, but I totaled up the numbers, numerous times, and got a higher number.
Over the course of 2012 Hulu went from a frequency of 43.1 to December's astounding 64.9. Couple that with their loss of reach which was 11% of the US Population in January and just 7.3 in December. Clearly, they're going in the completely wrong direction.
In December BrightRoll also had a dip in reach. After peaking at 49.3% in October, they dropped to 43.1 in December, yet still showed roughly the same number of ads, 1.82 billion. Google grew its reach by almost 10% with 23.5 in February and 32.4 in December, yet almost doubled the amount of video ads they showed from 1.1 billion to 2 billion. Specific Media started the year at 23.2% reach and ended at 41.6 while the video ads they showed in a month went from 400 million to one billion. 150% growth in video ads served with just under 100% growth in reach.
The thing that worries me is how comScore missed 500 million video ads in their total for December 2012.
If you don't agree that there is now serious online video ad overload how about this: Total ad minutes in January 2012 were 2,329 million yet in December were 4,135 million, again, all while minutes per viewer dropped from 1354.7 to 1150.2. If each of the 181.7 million Americans saw an equal number of ads, then it was 22.7 minutes of ads on their 19 hours of video for the month. Yes, it's just under 2% of all time spent watching video and a far cry from the 20% of TV but viewers perceive it differently.
Video Ads Limiting Online Video Viewing?
Clearly, online video viewers are now seeing far more video ads than they did last year and that means even less actual videos are being viewed because there is a definite lack of growth in video view numbers. In fact, video ads might even be the reason that there are less videos being viewed, ad overload might be having a negative impact on viewing numbers.
Think about it for a minute. People were leaving traditional TV and heading online for several reasons, the ability to catch up on TV on their own terms, cheaper prices than ever-growing cable bills and... less advertising. Just recently someone commented to me that Hulu is worse than TV and now they just DVR things and skip over the commercials because, of course, Hulu is the worst offender in ad overload with 64.9 ads per viewer when the next highest is Google at 20. The industry as a whole according to comScore went from 38.4 ads per viewer average in January to 69.9 in December. OUCH!
When streaming, they are not always sitting on their couch at home. They are mobile, and on tablets or computers. The ad breaks seem to be coming more frequently. Yes, they are usually shorter than the 3-5 minute breaks on TV, but that just makes them more annoying to the viewers.
Additionally, we have to remember that comScore only counts in-stream ads and not others, "such as overlays, branded players, matching banner ads, homepage ads, etc."
I'm certain there are other factors, like broadband penetration in rural areas, that are limiting the number of people watching video online and the number of videos being viewed. But there was, what looked to be, a cord-cutting trend starting when nearly 10% of consumers said they were going to do it. Now, it seems many are taking a wait and see approach. I cut the cord a year ago and couldn't be happier, but I also DVR some local, over-the-air TV and then skip the commercials. Why? The quality is just as good as Hulu, and I can skip the commercials. Hulu is still, by far, the worst video ad network on the planet in my eyes. They show more ads than I care to see, you can't skip any of them, and when you tell it that things like automobiles, auto insurance and fast food restaurants don't interest you, it simply ignores it all. Honestly, I think the fact that Jason Kilar is leaving Hulu is a sign that things there are only going to get worse, far worse before they ever get better...if they ever do. They are pulling in a lot of exclusive shows, especially from the UK, but if you've never watched them, you might not care anyway.