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The past 4 years have seen considerable change in how premium video is watched by US consumers, if ad views are used as a proxy. While Q4 2014 saw desktops accounting for the majority of ad views delivered by premium video, by the end of 2018 they accounted for just 14% of the total, according to the latest quarterly research [download page] by FreeWheel.

The device that has eaten most significantly into desktop’s share is connected TV (previously termed ‘OTT devices’), which now represent 42% of premium video ad views, marking 3 times desktop’s share.

In terms of the total number of ads delivered, desktop has seen the number drop by 18% year-over-year, while connected TV (+45%) and smartphone (+43%) are seeing a far greater volume.

Aside from changing TV viewing habits, part of the decline in desktop ad views might be explained by the fact that it is the device which has the highest proportion of clips, as 32% of the ad views on this device come as people are watching these videos of 5 minutes or less. Shorter ads that are more commonplace on clips have lower viewability rates, making them potentially less attractive to advertisers.

By contrast, more prolonged viewing occurs on the big screen via STV VOD and connected TV. Some 59% of ad views on connected TV devices were during full-episode content and another 38% during live programming. STV VOD is exclusively full-episode.

This full-episode content remains the most widely-viewed segment, accounting for 61% of ad views in the final quarter of 2018. But live viewing – within which sports drove more than half (57%) of ad views – was the biggest driver of growth, increasing some 51% year-over-year. Categories contributing to the growth of live viewing include news (up 42% year-over-year) and entertainment (up 102%).

Other highlights of the report:

  • Most premium video ads are viewed during the primetime hours between 8PM and 11PM.
  • In Q4 2018, ads delivered programmatically accounted for 13% of the total, with the remainder (87%) bought direct. But programmatic has 3 times higher year-over-year growth (58%) than direct buys (19%).
  • On average, 3.9 ads were shown during full-episode viewing at mid-roll break.

The report can be downloaded here.

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