Mobile Device as Second Screen: Q&A With JoAnna Abel, VP of Marketing, FreeWheel

Video-viewing on smartphones and tablets is on the rise.

According to FreeWheel’s recently released “Video Monetization Report” for third quarter 2011, short-form video (under 5 minutes) and mid-form video (over five, less than 20) have a primetime interval of 1 p.m. to 4 p.m, while long-form episodic video (over 20) has a primetime that mimics television – 8 p.m. to 11p.m. What does that suggest about viewer behavior? What should video publishers take away in terms of their mobile video content as well as ad initiatives? 


For one, the data shows that viewers are sneaking in a few Lady Gaga music videos during work hours. On a more serious note and digging deeper into the numbers, you’ll find that in that 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. slot, an overwhelming amount of users are watching on their wired computers and their smartphones, which are staples in the workplace. And, because they probably can’t get away with watching hour-long dramas at their desks all day, much of that video consumption is in the 0 to 20 minute range.


Users flock to their iPads during the traditional primetime TV slot – 8 pm to 11 p.m. – presumably for that TV-like experience, wherever they are. Also, viewers of long-form content (full episodes, movies and such) are being exposed to more ads (five on average) and are more likely to watch an ad through completion, to the tune of 82%. Consumers are accepting the increased ad loads for content they value most.

Smartphone video viewing jumps throughout the day into the evening, but iPad viewing sees a pre-work/commuting time bump, declines during the day and then increases to a 10:30 p.m. peak — what conclusions do you draw from that? 


First, we believe consumers reach for the nearest, best screen throughout the day to consume content. Our interpretation of these trends is that iPads are used both during the commute when viewers have more time, and in the evening at home. Meantime, many switch to the PC for video viewing during the work hours. Given the pervasiveness of smartphone use, the data reflects a consistent use of that device throughout the day. 


The report says 82% of video ads initiated in long-form content were completed, compared to 70% of those in mid-form and 56% in short-form. What should publishers and ops people glean from those figures? Can they be applied to video strategy? 


We have seen some general nervousness that consumers had been trained to expect that even premium content online should be ad-free. Content owners have been hesitant to put the kinds of ad loads in place that mimic TV – the ad loads that are required to support production of that content. Increased ad loads combined with completion rates like these indicate that consumers are willing to watch through video ads in and around professional content.


The take-away for the different completion rates between long-, mid- and short-form content is that publishers and ops people still need to be careful to align the number and length of ads with the length of the content – many won’t sit through two minutes of ads to see a 30-second clip.

Video views on the iPhone and iPod/iPod Touch have declined (7% and 26%, respectively), while iPad and Android are seeing more consumer adoption (15% and 7%, respectively). Are smartphones losing ground to their tablet cousins? How should publishers approach changing mobile video viewing habits? 


It may not be a function of “losing ground,” rather of a transition of viewing habits to larger screens. We’re also still only seeing the tip of the iceberg when it comes to tablet adoption, having only been in existence for two years, and consumers are quickly flocking to them more and more, which explains the turnaround.


Regardless, content providers should see this as an opportunity to reach massive audiences on multiple platforms and screens, so their content should be adapted accordingly for their audience. Tailor the content for the viewer and they will come back.

How do these mobile viewing rates compare to desktop? What insight can be garnered from shifts noted in the report? 


We’re seeing more and more usage of mobile devices as the second screen, rather than desktop, for sure. This is a product of the kind of devices that are being introduced in the market and the content and experiences that are being tailor-made for that growing audience. 

Video ad views grew 128% year over year, which for the first time was faster than regular old video views (97%). Why are video ad view rates accelerating? Perhaps better creative or targeting? 


There should always be a focus on offering the best creative possible to attract consumer interest and to target that creative to the best available audience, but, again, it’s more a function of consumers becoming more comfortable with ads in exchange for watching the content they love and publishers upping ad loads accordingly. 

What are video content owners biggest struggles in monetizing and optimizing their goods? How can they alleviate these woes? 


We still see content owners facing a number of technical, logistical and contractual challenges. The technical challenges are pretty well worked through thanks in part to standards like VAST and VPAID; but the logistics around how video is bought and sold across historically separate “TV” and “digital” teams are still not solved, nor are many of the contractual challenges content owners face in syndicating and authenticating access to content across distribution portals and devices. TV Everywhere and other efforts are being aggressively pursued, but there’s still plenty of work to be done to free up full content libraries. 

What aspects of consumer viewing behavior are not bleeping loud enough on publisher radars? 


Truthfully, all of our customers – media companies, TV companies, cable companies – are hearing the consumer loud and clear that they want more content on more devices, and are all making strong moves toward delivering on that wish.


On a related note, I’ll be speaking at the AdMonsters OPS Mobile conference on Wednesday and will have a few more unreleased data points about consumer viewing behavior that publishers should take note on. Stay tuned!

This exclusive AdMonsters content is brought to you by OPS Mobile. OPS Mobile will bring digital advertising leaders and ops professionals together to discuss and develop best practices for operational excellence in a world of connected devices. Register today for OPS Mobile, AdMonsters’ mobile advertising conference, which will be held December 7, 2011 in New York.