After the February fizzle in online video, March has seen the industry spring back to life with 174 million Americans raining down upon online video sites and viewing sessions blossoming to 5.7B while average viewing time saw a growth spurt to 889.1 minutes. Ahhh…spring is in the air, Play Ball!

Whew, that was some work getting all those spring-like references into the first paragraph. Whatever will I do with the rest of the article?

Online Video Views Burst Forth

As the flora of the northern hemisphere is breaking free of winter’s grasp and reaching for the warming rays of the sun, so too did online video viewers reach for their favorite content online. The seeds of growth were planted in the dismal February weather and behold, viewing sessions have sprung…sprang… sproinged to life in March. Google sites plucked a cool 1.97B viewing sessions (up from 1.8B in Feb) while Microsoft saw their audience spread wide their eyes and take in 331.3M sessions (up from 297M in Feb). Overall, there was a 700M session jump month-to-month.

Oddly, AOL swiped second place for total unique viewers (UV) the 57M of them descended on the rejuvenated portal. AOL video viewers must have caught Spring Fever as that’s an increase of 20M or almost 50% from last month (38.7M). That was enough to push Yahoo firmly in the moist, fertile soil of third place where they still cleaned up a cool 56M unique viewers, 10M more than the month prior. Microsoft, formerly in second and now in fourth for UV still saw growth of 4.2M UV.

In fact all Top Ten video properties ranked by UV saw growth there, though Hulu must have got a late start to the planting season as they barely managed 300,000 new viewers. Perhaps the crushing weight of their winter advertising avalanche had a negative impact on the rate of budding viewers.

Top U.S. Online Video Properties by Video Views Ranked by Unique Video Viewers

March 2011 Total U.S. – Home/Work/University Locations

PropertyTotal Unique Viewers (000)Viewing Sessions (000)Minutes per Viewer
Total Internet : Total Audience174,3155,726,413889.1
Google Sites143,1911,971,939275.6
AOL, Inc.57,006284,68839.2
Yahoo! Sites56,361267,68842.1
Microsoft Sites53,090331,28247.2
Viacom Digital48,696180,63873.2
Turner Digital41,718154,16337.5
NBC Universal31,05265,97317.3

Even average viewing times saw a gradual warming through the month as the average per viewer rose 73 minutes perhaps due to March Madness or Spring Training. Google again saw an increase, 14 minutes on the average, while Hulu lost 9 minutes per user. Between that and the lost users, I might feel vindicated in my harsh criticism of their advertising loads. They also lost about 200M viewing sessions. Other sites that didn’t blossom in viewing time for March include VEVO and NBC Universal, all TV sites oddly, yet Viacom and Turner improved and even Facebook notch an extra 0.7 minutes on average.

Hulu Leaps Forth in Total Ad Minutes

Not to be deterred by big losses in Unique viewers, viewing sessions or average time, Hulu managed to make leaps and bounds in advertising (further proof of my point I believe). They showed 1.27B video advertisements which totaled 520 million minutes of ad time. The Frequency was down by one but reach was oddly up by 0.9% which makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Quick math time: Hulu unique viewers totaled 27.5M in March and comScore said that was 8.9% reach meaning comScore believes the US to have 309.4M people at the end of March ((100/8.9)*27.5M). Yet in Feb it was 27.25 and 7.8% which would have meant 349.36M Americans ((100/7.8)*27.25M)… How’s that for an illustration of the poor accuracy of comScore numbers at times? They basically are saying the the US lost 40M people from February to March. It’s a pretty major gap and I think proves the problem with comScore numbers on the whole. Math doesn’t lie folks, people do.

Anyway, Hulu ruled online video ads but Tremor buzzed about to the tune of 804M video ads, a burst of energy compared to the 548M in February (what’s up Tremor? I know you’re reading). Brightroll also jumped for joy with an extra 125M ads for March. ABC disappeared from the chart and was replaced by AOL who we already know has something heating up over there in regards to video.

Tremor also came close to Hulu in total ad minutes only 31M minutes behind (520 vs. 489) and yet, only showed a rather low 13.7 ads per viewer and reached some 19.5% of the US Population while doing it.

So in summary, Tremor shows 2/3 of the ads that Hulu does, shows users 71% less ads and reached twice as many users. Makes your head spin, no?

Meanwhile, Brightroll tucked the largest percentage of the US into its nest with 22.8% reach while only showing 398M ads for 231M minutes at a rate of 5.8 ads per viewer.

So what’s that tell us?

If you want big reach and low repetition, Brightroll might be the place to go. In fact, they tied AOL for the lowest frequency but more than doubled them in reach. Then again, Adap.TV and Tremor look good for big reach and low repetition as well.

Top U.S. Online Video Properties by Video Ads* Viewed Ranked by Video Ads Viewed

March 2011 Total U.S. – Home/Work/University Locations

PropertyVideo Ads (000)Total Ad Minutes (MM)Frequency (Ads per Viewer)% Reach Total U.S. Population
Total Internet : Total Audience4,320,5331,89233.143.2%
Tremor Media Video Network**804,30148913.719.5%**553,18233310.218.0%
BrightRoll Video Network**397,8092315.822.8%
SpotXchange Video Ad Network**396,9192359.613.7%
Viacom Digital372,99817713.19.4%
CBS Interactive254,8449511.17.6%
Microsoft Sites232,8151138.98.7%
AOL, Inc.188,967925.810.8%

*Video ads include streaming-video advertising only and do not include other types of video monetization,
such as overlays, branded players, matching banner ads, homepage ads, etc.
**Indicates video ad network

Other notable findings from March 2011 include:

  • 83.5 percent of the U.S. Internet audience viewed online video. Up 1%
  • The duration of the average online content video was 5.2 minutes, while the average online video ad was 0.4 minutes. Length up 0.1 minutes, ads same as before.
  • Video ads accounted for 12.7 percent of all videos viewed and 1.2 percent of all minutes spent viewing video online. Up 0.3% of all videos. same as before for minutes.