Streaming Services Comprised 45% of Non-Linear Ad Views in 1H 2021, New FreeWheel Report Finds

Additionally, fueled by buyers seeking flexibility, programmatic also emerged as a main theme during this year’s upfronts, as evidenced by its 84% YOY growth, and is expected to remain a key trend moving forward.

FreeWheel, A Comcast Company (Nasdaq: CMCSA), published the latest installment of its U.S. Video Marketplace Report (VMR), an industry benchmark publication that examines industry viewership trends.

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“As these new consumer behaviors and advertising tactics become habitual, we’re expecting many of these trends to continue fueling the pace and development of new technologies, innovations and ways of reaching and engaging viewers.”

Throughout the first half of this year, new technologies and political tensions – amid an evolving pandemic – transformed and accelerated how people accessed, engaged with and responded to media and advertising. As a result, several key consumer viewership trends and behaviors emerged, which the report’s authors predict will continue to play an influential role in shaping the industry moving forward.

The report’s key findings include:

  • Viewers showed that they are still streaming in the first half of 2021. In particular, there has been a shift in how people watch video with the growth of CTV viewership and the launch of new streaming platforms offering more TV quality programming. During this time frame, ad views continued to increase 50% year over year, driven by the increase in streaming. In fact, streaming services accounted for 45% of recorded ad views, greater than TV Everywhere (TVE), Set-Top Box Video on Demand (STB VOD) and Virtual MVPDs (vMVPDs) as a distribution platform.
  • Connected TV (CTV) accounts for 60% of total ad views, with Roku and Fire TV devices continuing to lead with 43% and 26% of CTV views, respectively.
  • As the world emerged from an unpredictable year, buyers went into the upfronts seeking flexibility, with an increased focus on programmatic transactions. According to 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.
  • 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 Warner Media’s HBO Max and CNN’s upcoming, subscription based, live programming news streaming service, CNN+.)
  • Behavioral targeting increased share due to advances in audience targeting capabilities with 60% representing behavioral segments and 40% demo.

“The first half of 2021 was an interesting and pivotal time in terms of viewership trends and how the industry responded. One example was the rise in programmatic transactions, as buyers sought greater flexibility, in this year’s upfronts,” said Comcast Advertising VP of Marketing James Rothwell. “As these new consumer behaviors and advertising tactics become habitual, we’re expecting many of these trends to continue fueling the pace and development of new technologies, innovations and ways of reaching and engaging viewers.”

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