A Closer Look at Comscore’s Video Rankings for March

/ Apr 26, 2013

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Comscore released its latest monthly video content and ad rankings yesterday, and a lot of it is the same old story. “182.5 million Americans watched 39.3 billion online content videos in March.” In February, it was 178 million Americans watching 33 billion videos. In January, it was 180 million Americans watching 36.2 billion videos. Really for quite some time now, the numbers have hovered around 170-180 million Americans watching 30-40 billion videos every month.

That doesn’t mean these numbers don’t matter; they definitely indicate a sturdy online video industry. But it’s also important to understand how Comscore defines an online content video. First, for long-form videos with multiple ad breaks in the middle, each video segment is counted as an individual view. So while a viewer may have watched one episode of a TV show on Hulu, or even one episode of an original web series from a service like Crackle, that could actually count as three or four separate views. And second, Comscore counts a video view as any user-initiated or auto-played video that was watched for 3 seconds or longer.

While this may not be new information, sometimes it’s important to remind ourselves that the view may not be the best metric for telling your video business story. Maybe it’s user engagement, as defined by time spent on the site, which would still keep Google/YouTube at the top of Comscore’s rankings, but would shuffle the rest of the top 10 video properties.

What’s really interesting about Comscore’s rankings for March, aside from Fullscreen topping 40 million unique monthly viewers for the first time, is that Americans watched 13.2 billion video ads last month — the most Comscore has ever recorded through its Video Metrix service.

Considering the online video industry is about to embark on a weeklong journey to sell itself to brands and agencies, that’s some pretty good news.

Google/YouTube led the way, with Americans watching more than 2.3 billion video ads on the site. BrightRoll’s video ad platform was a close second, with 2.2 billion video ads.

But once again, if you just look at the rankings by views, it doesn’t tell the whole story. If Comscore determines a video ad view the same way it measures a video content view, in that it has to be seen for 3 seconds or longer, then YouTube is severely outmatched by BrightRoll and the rest of the top 5 video ad properties. Time spent watching video ads on Google/YouTube totaled 197 million minutes. BrightRoll delivered the highest duration of video ads with 1.15 billion minutes. In fact, among Comscore’s top 5 video ad properties, LiveRail.com (#4 in terms of video ad views) was the closest to Google/YouTube in terms of video ad duration, and it still generated almost three times the duration (589 million minutes).

If you’re an advertiser, it calls into question how valuable Google’s TrueView ad unit is. Would you rather the viewer have to sit through a 15- or 30-second spot, or be given the option to skip it after 5 seconds? They’ll both count towards a view, but which one is going to bring in the most bang for your buck? Google would argue that if a user chooses to not skip the ad, that’s more valuable as they’re then less likely to ignore it. And admittedly, YouTube doesn’t really have the benefit of mid-rolls, which automatically spike time-spent numbers upward. But it’s definitely a debate worth having.

We’re sure you’ll hear more about the video ad puzzle next week. In fact, we can guarantee it.

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