FreeWheel's David Dworin on the State of the Premium Video Marketplace

By Comcast Advertising InSites Archives
Cover image for  article: FreeWheel's David Dworin on the State of the Premium Video Marketplace

The most recent wave of FreeWheel's U.S. Video Marketplace Report, based on data collected during the first half of 2021, offers a fascinating overview of a market in flux. FreeWheel has been using its data from premium video content since 2012 to help inform the industry, offering advertisers and programmers a wealth of knowledge. Discerning trends during the pandemic has been especially important to get a sense of the size and the pace of growth of the market. "And it's really grown," shared David Dworin, vice president, advisory services, FreeWheel.

Study Takeaways

"We've been saying for years that the power of premium digital video is that you aren't constrained by watching it on a cable box," Dworin said. "You could watch whenever you wanted, wherever you wanted, whatever you wanted regardless of when something was traditionally programmed or what device it was for. The wherever has changed, because everyone was watching [while] stuck at home." This has resulted in impressive growth in the number of video views and ad views. "What is really interesting is that we are seeing these double digit increases every year but they are increasing off an ever-growing base, up 30% in ad views," he added.

Another takeaway is that "nearly three quarters of premium digital video viewing is happening on the big screen, on a traditional television, about half of it is happening though a connected TV device, and about a quarter of it is happening through set top box VOD," he stated. Compared to 2012 when the study was launched, "it was almost all happening on desktop, with a little bit happening on tablets."

Finally, "we have seen the mix of content that people watch stay fairly stable over the years," he explained. "But this year, because of the pandemic, we've seen sudden shocks to it. Traditionally we see a steady share of entertainment, news and sports, but we've seen it shift. Entertainment stayed high. But we saw in March a spike around news with viewers turning towards digital video channels as their source for news."

Is this a temporary result of the pandemic? Dworin doesn't think so. "This is a year of accelerated change," he explained. "What we are seeing happening in our data and anecdotally is that this is not a blip in 2020. All of these trends that we have been talking about for years, this year was the catalyst that really started to transform the industry and push so many of these things forward faster."

What the Data Revealed

FreeWheel focused in on a specific week in March that was peak pandemic to answer the question, "Are people shifting when they decide to watch TV now that they are home all the time?"

"We saw almost a 15% bump in the amount of time people spent watching between noon and 6 p.m.," he revealed. "Then another bump in the late afternoon and then bumps in the morning, almost 10%, and in primetime."

When you examine the data by platform, Dworin noted that, "the biggest differences by platform occurred in the first half (of the pandemic). But when we look at the full first half, the biggest thing we see is continued explosive growth around connected TV, growing over 40% year to year. It is now about half of the digital viewing."

With the lack of live sports, "advertisers have had to use data in more sophisticated ways in order to find those audiences in other places," he stated. "We will see a return to sports by viewers and advertisers as well as seeing advertisers adopt new tactics that they had to employ without sports there."

As far as frequency is concerned, "the technology is there to reduce the amount of repetition of creative, so in 98% of on-demand sessions creative repeats either zero or one time," he explained, "[although] it is difficult to frequency cap today across different publishers. If you watch something on one app at one point and then on a different app, you may not get frequency capping across all of them." But he noted that there are some initiatives out there to address this issue. Instead of the term "incremental reach," Dworin prefers to call it "unique reach of people who you are not able to reach on traditional linear television. This is a way that you can do it in a less cluttered environment."

Next Steps for Advertisers

According to Dworin, advertisers are still playing catch up. "The amount of advertising dollars is not necessarily proportionally up to the amount of viewing that's happening in what is still a fairly constrained supply environment," he said, because there is less inventory in connected TV. He advises advertisers to consider their cross-screen video strategy and, "how to best incorporate data, how to incorporate programmatic and addressable advertising and accessing this inventory long term in a way that gives them access to really differentiated and important inventory while also making sure that publishers are able to keep it brand safe and compliant -- everything everybody loves about traditional TV advertising."


Using FreeWheel data offers a "comprehensive look into ad-supported premium video because we see it across all of the different devices, across all of the major media companies, the major television companies, the different platforms, the different apps, which offers a holistic view," Dworin noted. The methodology has been refined over the years including the terminology they use, and the data set has also expanded over time. The data is powered by video content that uses FreeWheel for dynamic advertising, "anywhere where two different people may get a different ad versus scheduled advertising in traditional advertising," he explained. The data consists of digital, set top box VOD and some addressable television.

To download a copy of the full H1 2020 Video Marketplace Report, please click here.

FreeWheel is a Comcast Company providing comprehensive ad platforms for publishers, advertisers and media buyers. Powered by premium video content, robust data and advanced technology, the company is revolutionizing the way publishers and marketers transact across all screens, data types and sales channels.

Click the social buttons to share this story with colleagues and friends.
The opinions expressed here are the author's views and do not necessarily represent the views of


Copyright ©2023 MediaVillage, Inc. All rights reserved. By using this site you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.