Can the last person watching desktop video please turn out the light?

OTT Boxes are killing the Video Star - and about time too

A little-noticed but quite remarkable factoid emerged from the world of digital advertising last week.

Ad revenue from TV plug-in boxes has surpassed revenue from videos that play in a desktop or laptop’s web browser. The news may surprise you as so many mainstream sites play video whether you asked to see it or not. The auto-playing video is a blight on modern internet use.

Old school newspapers and magazine publishers persist with them, but users hate them. Why? The videos often evade ad-blockers - because they’re "legitimate" content. The video is rarely relevant and then often continues to play as the user scrolls away from it, like a persistent stalker.

It’s an encouraging figure, as it may incentivise advertisers to use their ad spending more effectively, which in turn may diminish the unwanted video plague.

The stat comes from consultancy Freewheel in a report analysing the audience and engagement of ads delivered through OTT (Over The Top) plug in boxes and dongles. (Free download, registration required). Remarkably, 58 per cent of US households have accessed one of these in a given month: a high penetration rate for a stealth technology. What it calls “attached devices” such as Apple TV Chromecast and Roku account for 84 per cent of ad revenue through OTT kit, games consoles 11 per cent, and 5 per cent via smart TVs with OTT services built in. With games console penetration much higher, Freewheel points out, the game-friendly household is under-monetized.

Freewheel explains that there is some concern about viewability and fraud, issues which plague the online video business, but “OTT is inherently less vulnerable to both challenges due to high authentication rates, the devices’ closed environments, and the nature of the viewing experience”. Once you’ve sat back to watch something, you’re less likely to click away.

It also notes that the dongles have helped saved TV.

“OTT has compensated for a large part of the primetime TV ratings decline, replacing traditional television for many viewers. We found that viewers treat OTT devices just like traditional television — they watch a large amount of live streamed content and tune in mostly during the popular, primetime TV hours. Therefore, marketers who only advertise through linear TV spots would miss out on these OTT audiences, who are watching the same content during the same time period, but on a different platform,” we learn.

Fancy that. ®

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