The traditional TV model is being disrupted, and with this comes a new breed of viewer: one that seeks out new experiences, engages with content, and expects things on their terms.

We know from comScore that 13.5m viewers watch 17 hours of video per month. But what we at Specific Media wanted to understand was why and how – what are the attitudes and habits of these viewers? To that end, earlier in the year we surveyed 1,000 consumers who had watched online video content in the past month. These are our findings.

Viewing Habits: When, Where, on What?

The environment in which consumers view online video appears to owe a good deal to its offline forbearer, television. Users seem to like nothing more than curling up on the sofa: 97% of all video content was viewed at home, and 68% of respondents said they had been using laptops. Desktops, meanwhile, lagged behind on 52%.

It was also striking how closely daily viewing patterns for online video followed that of television, with a dip of 10-16% in midday rising to 70-74% by late evening. This raises questions about online video's relationship to more traditional viewing habits: is it a supplement to television, or a substitute?

It was also interesting to examine the figures for tablets. Just 6% of viewers used tablets, which is dwarfed by laptop, desktop, and even mobile phone usage, which 17% of respondents use to watch video. According to a recent study by ShopZilla this figure of 6% correlates with the UK's current tablet market, suggesting that nearly all tablet owners use the device to watch online video. With the survey also finding a potential for 20% growth within the coming year – at the expense of other devices – it's very possible that the tablet may rapidly become a heavy hitter for online video.

Another small, but significant stat was how many people said they had watched video on the way to work: 13%. As high-quality wireless becomes increasingly ubiquitous, the proliferation of connected devices may mean the commute becomes to online video what the breakfast is to morning television.

What's Being Watched?

Too often when we think of online video we think of the latest big hit viral staring a dog on a skateboard, but the majority of users in fact watch full length television episodes (56%), music videos (46% - nine of YouTube's 10 most viewed clips are music videos) and news (43%). With 44% of respondents stating that the main motivation for online viewing was a desire for entertainment, and 42% actively choosing what content they watch, it makes sense that the familiarity of television has made these shows the first port of call.

Only 17% of respondents said that they watched user generated content, which would suggest that much of this category is not well thought of, despite the successes of viral video. This apparent disparity may be explained by only the very best viral and user-generated content becoming truly mainstream.

And in keeping with the professional origins of the types of video consumed, viewing satisfaction is generally high, with 70% agreeing that there is good content available.

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Our full findings for content viewed were:

• Full length TV show 56%

• Music video 46%

• News 43%

• Film trailers & previews 37%

• Sports 34%

• TV clips 33%

• Film clips 32%

• Full length film 24%

• UGC 17%

The overall picture is one of users who know what they want – and that's bitesize, premium video content.

What Are Consumer Habits?

With new viewing methods come new viewing habits. Online video consumption is a personal experience with its own unique properties, and people react accordingly. The key observation is that viewers are much more active when viewing online video content than traditional, more habitual media. This manifests in distinct ways.

Firstly, the motivators for online content are much more about a personal, customized experience. As we showed previously, users tend to choose their own content that fits around their lifestyles. This lends itself to a more solo experience, with less of an emphasis on watching in groups than when compared to television.

This means viewers are more engaged with the content they are watching – after all, they chose it. This more involved, participatory reaction furthers the experience: 47% of respondents said they discussed the content they had viewed, the same proportion that said they had sought more information on the topic. 23% also said they had shared, forwarded and commented on content – which suggests online video is effective at raising awareness and consideration of brands – and 24% that they had clicked on an advert, which suggests online video can also drive purchases.

What's the Most Effective Way to Advertise?

Measuring the effectiveness of online video advertising, we found over half the respondents recalled seeing advertising around online video. The different ways to advertise with video showed that pre-roll was by far the most effective, followed by sponsorships and in-banner adverts. Our findings were, in order of effectiveness:

• Pre-roll 55%

• Sponsorship 45%

• In banner 43%

• Display 38%

• Unit advertising 33%

• Mid-roll 33%

• Branded content 23%

• Post-roll 20%

What we discovered in our research is that online viewing provides many of the positives offered by television, but shares fewer of the negatives. Levels of involvement and relevance were on a par with video's older sibling, television, but 59% of respondents said that they felt 'in control' of video.

What was different was the response to adverts. The involving experience offered by online video creates less of an opportunity to 'move away' when an advert appears – meaning a more engaged audience. Users said that they felt advertising in online content was relevant, and 61% said they were happy to watch adverts in exchange for free content.

For marketers, then, online video represents a fantastic opportunity to reach audiences. The curative behaviour of the modern consumer means that individuals are building up comprehensive profiles of interests. This helps serve relevant adverts to an engaged audience, who have an interest in what they are being shown and the means to act upon it.

  • Jeff Koenig

    While I like the idea behind this study, Mr. Worrell, the small sample size and questionable categorizations worry me with regards to the veracity of the results.

    For example, there seems to be no separation between "UGC" and professionally produced web original content. Dogs on skateboards are fine, but consumers already have difficulty self categorizing web originals - and they are neither UGC nor network Television.

    For example, if a respondent watched Hulu's "The Booth at the End", Warner Brothers' "Mortal Kombat: Legacy", Dane Beodingher's "Annoying Orange", Felicia Day's "The Guild", Zach Galiafinakis' "Between Two Ferns", or any of the dozens of other online original shows which receive several million views per episode and outperform a majority of cable programming, there's no intuitive space on your list to report it.

    Further, qualifying ad views through terms like "sponsorship" and "branded content" is likewise misleading. Having done branded entertainment campaigns for Ikea, Trident, Spherion, The Better Sleep Council, and more - the best sponsored and branded video is generally not identified as such by the audience. Branded entertainment works best when the audience sees the content as a show (as opposed to a commercial), and they are then less likely to report it as an ad. Branded music content, like the Toyota Concert Series, will more likely be identified as music videos than branded content.

    Ad targeting is certainly improved over television, as is engagement, but I would imagine that Specific Media understands that touting pre-roll's dominance must be qualified: it's the only inescapable format (assuming the viewer actually wants to see the content), so of course it's watched more, but engagement and retention levels on pre-roll are generally lower than other formats even if it is the most watched.

    I commend you on sharing the results of your study with ReelSEO readers, but user engagement with online video goes well beyond simply dogs on skateboards vs. last week's The Voice. For advertisers truly looking to maximize ROI, they'd be better off looking deeper than what the results of this study seem to show.


    Jeff Koenig

  • Elizabeth

    My main question is, was the term "user-generated content" used in the survey? I don't think that's necessarily a term the layperson associates with videos of skateboarding dogs, which might lead to some under-reporting in that category.

  • VideoLeadsOnline

    Very interesting stats... thanks for sharing them, however your sample group of 1000 seems a bit small to me.

    Plus your comment that people are more 'solo' online than 'group'-minded (TV) could simply be related to the idea that there are "millions" of channels to choose from online leading to 'solo' activity vs. "thousands" or less on TV leading to 'group' watching.

    Don't get me wrong, I like the info you have shared... but also would like to know more about the sample group's details to see how well this info can be interpolated.

  • Michael Simpson

    Interesting POV but I would like to see the content percentages broken down even further. Full length TV shows for example, how much of the viewed content is this season's fare or would it be something older like the first season of The Sopranos?

    It is kinda demoralizing for those of us who produce videos to see UGC at the bottom of the pile but no mention is made of porn (and no we don't produce porn). Would porn be factored into the full length categories, clips or UGC?

    Also is the viewing of these content categories originally initiated by the viewer of are they links that were sent by a friend, in a newsletter or on a RSS feed?

    It is clear for me as a producer to find unique ways to motivate the viewer to share our videos with others. I could use an epiphany right about now...anyone care to share one?