New FreeWheel VMR Examines Viewer Evolution and How the Premium Video Marketplace Has Responded

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Last week, FreeWheel published its latest Video Marketplace Report (VMR), an industry benchmark publication that examines viewership trends. This latest report, accessible here, takes a closer look at "The Viewer Evolution and How the Premium Video Marketplace Has Responded" in the first half of 2021.

One of the report's most interesting findings was the marked increase in video ad views year over year, driven by a shift in how people watch video with the growth of CTV viewership and the launch of new streaming platforms offering more quality TV programming. In fact, during the first six months of 2021, ad views continued to increase 50% year over year, driven by the increase in streaming. As noted in this latest VMR installment, streaming services comprised 45% of recorded ad views.

FreeWheel's Director of Advisory Services, Julia Zangwill, told MediaVillage that this growth in streaming services is in part fueled by the number of direct-to-consumer services that entered the market in the past 18 months, including discovery+, Paramount+, Peacock and HBO Max.

"These new services, along with free, ad-supported streaming TV services (FASTs) such as Pluto, Xumo and Tubi, enable consumers to have more content, with a palatable ad load," she told MediaVillage.

Another key finding was the increase in programmatic advertising transactions as buyers entered this year's Upfronts seeking more data, flexibility and automation. In fact, programmatic transactions now comprise 24% of premium video ad views. Per a recent study, more than half of CTV buyers planned to allocate more money to programmatic in 2021 than they did in 2020. This trend was seen in the first half of 2021, with programmatic transactions comprising 24% of premium video ad views, resulting in an 84% year-over-year growth.

Key Takeaways
Other noteworthy findings from this latest VMR installment include:

  • For non-linear content,connected TVremained a top choice for viewers, with 60% of total ad views. People opting to view on bigger screens and spending more time streaming content are fueling this growth.
  • Entertainment programming continues to lead the premium TV video ecosystem, with 92% of ad views. As streaming services continue to double down on content, two main approaches emerged: those who diversify and those who specialize. Paramount+ and Peacock, for instance, offer consumers diverse content ranging from sports to comedies, dramas and movies, while others focus on specific verticals. (Examples include WarnerMedia's HBO Max and CNN's upcoming, subscription based, live news streaming service CNN+.)
  • Behavioral targeting increased share due to advances in audience targeting capabilities with 60% representing behavioral segments and 40% demo.

Looking Ahead
FreeWheel believes that smart TVs will become a more significant part of the advertising ecosystem as they reach fuller penetration and publishers will continue to focus their efforts on direct-to-consumer services. Content will remain king and live streaming will continue to grow as it expands into gaming, social media and audio. Finally, there will be increased sophistication in the programmatic space as it becomes more curated with greater security and privacy.

Asked whether many of the consumer behaviors captured in this report are a temporary change or permanent pivot, Zangwill said that they reflect viewership evolution and how the industry has responded amid a pandemic.

"We are closely tracking these new consumer behaviors and how the industry responds to, embraces and adapts to them," she noted. "As these viewership trends become more habitual, we're anticipating many of them to continue driving the trajectory and speed of new industry solutions, innovations and technologies, as well as how we reach and engage with people."

Click hereto download FreeWheel's 1H 2021 Video Marketplace Report.

Photo courtesy of FreeWheel.

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