Ten days ago, comScore released its December 2013 U.S. online video rankings. The announcement was made on a Friday at 6 p.m. (EST), which is normally when companies try to bury their bad news. But, hidden in plain sight in comScore’s press release was some good news for AOL, Inc.
My colleague Christopher Rick has already analyzed the definition of a video view that enabled comScore to report on Jan. 10, 2013, that “Online Content Videos Exceed 50 Billion Monthly Views for First Time on Record.” He also revealed “the recent inclusion, following a technical validation effort, of a significant volume of short (typically 6-second) Vine videos that have been uploaded to Facebook.” This resulted in Facebook’s December 2013 online video viewership, particularly the number of video views, ending up “substantially higher than prior months.”
So, perhaps all of this methodological mumbo jumbo explains why comScore distributed this press release during Friday evening’s bad news dump. (The only time when more bad news is dumped on the major press release distribution services is on the Friday evening before a three-day holiday weekend.) However, Sarah Borton of LaunchSquad, who is on the PR team working with AOL’s video arm, encouraged me to take a second look at comScore’s announcement. And buried in the body of the press release were these impressive numbers:
- AOL was ranked #1 in video ads for the third month in a row. Its 4.3 billion video ads delivered in December represents a new industry record, and video ads reached 55.6% of the total US population an average of 204 times during the month.
- On the content side, AOL hit a new company record high for unique viewers (76.1 million) and videos views (1.4 billion). It also ranked #3 in total minutes viewed.
So, Something is Cooking Over at AOL.......
I asked Borton to set up an interview for me and a couple of days later she set up a conference call with Michael O’Connor, the Vice President of Operations, Yield and Analytics at AolOn. He’s a fast talker, so my notes of our conversation are a little sketchy. But I got the gist of what’s driving the company’s success.
In early September, AOL completed its acquisition of Adap.tv, Inc., a leading global, programmatic video advertising platform for the world's largest brands, agencies, and publishers. As ReelSEO reported in mid-October, this enabled AOL to leapfrog over Google to become the top U.S. online video ad property. And from September to December, AOL’s video ad views have grown from 3.7 billion to 4.3 billion a month, total ad minutes have increased from 1.7 billion to 1.9 billion, frequency is up from 24.2 ads per viewer to 26.9, and reach has expanded from 49.6% of the total U.S. population to 51.9%.
Programmatic Video Advertising
In late September, AOL, Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo announced that they had each committed to converge around a common set of API specifications for the premium programmatic digital advertising sales channel. The goal was to make it easier for advertisers and agencies to procure premium digital advertising by reducing the friction in discovering, ordering and paying for premium inventory. Previously, the buying and selling of premium ad offerings had been largely constrained by manual sales processes. The alignment around a set of API specifications will complement current direct sales channels and remove barriers for both advertisers wanting to buy and publishers wanting to sell programmatically.
So, four months after the acquisition of Adap.tv, AOL is still the only complete global programmatic video technology stack across all screens currently in the marketplace. It has been included as part of the overall solution offered by AOL Networks to leading publishers, advertisers and agencies seeking to maximize the value of their online investments.
In other words, the addition of Adap.tv has not only solidified AOL’s leadership position as the #1 video ad property, it has also put AOL in a position to capitalize on two major trends in the video space – the movement of advertising dollars from TV to online video and the shift from manual transactions to programmatic media buying.
Meanwhile, over on the online video content side of the market, the inventory on AOL homepages, The Huffington Post, TechCrunch and StyleList is available on a programmatic basis via AdLearn Open Platform (AOP), giving advertisers the opportunity to buy in an automated fashion what they previously bought manually.
AOL Original Programming
In addition, AOL’s investment in premium original content is paying dividends. The slate of original web series that have premiered on the AOL On Network, AOL’s premium video platform, and across its 1,700 partner sites includes:
- "The Restart Project" - Gwyneth Paltrow and Tracy Anderson spend time with women who've overcome hardship, injury, and setbacks to triumph in the face of adversity.
- "Fatherhood" - Hank Azaria’s touching, humorous, and often enlightening journey from a man who is not even sure he wants to have kids, to a father going through the joys, trials and tribulations of being a dad.
This combination of AOL sites, 1,700 partner sites, and premium content gives AOL a pretty compelling story to tell to advertisers like Verizon, partners like ESPN, and content partners like Nicole Richie. During our interview, O’Connor hinted that we can expect AOL to make more announcements at the 2014 NewFronts, which are scheduled for April 28 through May 2.
AOL - Top YouTube Alternative?
Of course, we can expect all the NewFront Founding Partners—including YouTube, Microsoft, Yahoo!, and Hulu as well as AOL—to make major announcements during NewFront Week. But, consider this: The only two properties with a spot in comScore’s top 10 list video content properties as well as its top 10 list of video ad properties are Google Sites, driven primarily by video viewing at YouTube.com, and AOL. That makes AOL the top YouTube alternative.
Now, that isn’t a story that internet marketers and video content producers would want buried during Friday evening’s bad news dump, is it? Heck, they might even want to read about it 10 days later on a three-day holiday weekend.