Video Uniques Down But Viewing Time Up

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video_smallADOTAS – Images of slack-jawed Americans staring at 13-inch laptops perched precariously on their potbellies are running through my head this morning. comScore’s just-released online video viewing numbers for December claim that 172 million U.S. internet users — or 84.6% — watched an average of 14.6 hours of online each during 5.2 billion viewing sessions.

At first I was stunned by the numbers… But then I remembered that a year earlier comScore reported 178 million uniques watching a total of 33.2 billion videos in December 2009.

The stats stayed about the same between November 2010 and December 2010, but back in October 175 million U.S. uniques were watching an average of 15.1 hours per viewer — comScore noted at the time that Hulu served a billion video ads as the fall TV season got rolling. July 2010 and August 2010 both saw 178 million unique U.S. viewers and an average of 14.5 hours of video per user.

It’s not unreasonable to suggest slacking video viewage during the holiday season — People want to spend time IN REALITY with their families? Crazy! But also consider formerly free, all ad-supported Hulu, which began testing its subscription service in June and then cut the price from $9.99 to $7.99 a month in late October.

Hulu slipped from about 30 million uniques to 27 million between September and December, but the average viewing time per user jumped from 162.6 minutes to 217.1. Indeed, the average length of a video has jumped to 5 minutes in December 2010 from 4 in December 2009.

As usual, in December 2010 Google sites were on top of the video heap (thank you, YouTube) with 144.8 million uniques, nearly 2 billion sessions and an average of 274.3 minutes per viewer, an increase from 260.4 minutes in September 2010 (all the other stats were about the same). Yahoo sites took the far-back second place with 53 million uniques, 191 million sessions and an average of 30 minutes per user — bit of a slip from 54 million uniques, 240 million sessions and 31.5 minutes per viewer in September.

Upstart music video site VEVO, launched only a year before, heralded 50.6 million uniques with 266 million sessions and an average of 90 minutes per user. Facebook took sixth place with 41 million uniques, 124 million sessions and an average of 14.6 minutes for each user.

Video ads made up 16.4% of all videos viewed and 1.6% of all time spent viewing, up from 12.3% and 1.2% in September. On average video ad reached 49% of the U.S. population (not just Internet users) 39.8 times during a month — U.S. users watched 5.9 billion video ads in December.

Hulu served more than 1.2 billion ads, trailed by Tremor Media with 1 billion ads served, Adap.tv with 682 million and BrightRoll with 588 million. For video ad networks, Tremor Media took top honors in terms of reach (51.4%), followed by BrightRoll with 40.6% and Break Media with 39.7%

So while the number of U.S. unique viewers has dropped from last year, it seems to have stabled. However, it seems consumers are spending more time watching videos, a growing percentage of which are ads. The small slip in reach is disappointing, but the increase in engagement is intriguing.

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