TV accounted for 93.8% of video ads viewed in the UK in 2016, far more than YouTube and online video as a whole. To snatch some of that ad revenue, the Google-owned streaming plans new formats it hopes will exploit the unfettered growth of mobile viewing.
It points to TV’s surprising staying power at a time when the way people view content and consequently ad budgets slowly move online. Such is TV’s resilience that Lindsey Clay, the chief executive at the medium’s marketing body Thinkbox, called it the “pre-eminent form of video”, citing a 2016 analysis of total video viewing across the country.
From the study, it found the average person in the UK watched 20 minutes of video advertising a day last year. TV - either live, playback or on a broadcaster’s VOD service - accounted for 93.8% (18 minutes, 53 seconds) of this time spent daily, compared with 94.4% in 2015. YouTube, on the flip side, hosted 0.7% of the video advertising that was viewed. While this was up from 0.5% posted in 2015, it shows how tough the online behemoth has found breaking into the TV ad market.
Yes, YouTube’s worldwide viewership has surpassed one billion hours a day but those views are yet to have a material impact on TV as Thinkbox’s study reveals. There’s no one explanation as to why it has struggled to crack the market, though some media observers queried how much of its use is actually by a minority of its users, as well as what they believe is a lack of premium content, as potential reasons.
Despite its marginal gains last year, YouTube fared slightly better among younger viewers, with 1.8% of 16-24s’ video ad viewing on the site (up from 1.3% in 2015), according to the report. It was still far behind the 89.5% (up from 88.6% in 2015) that occurred on TV.
Speaking to The Drum prior to the report’s publication, Google’s managing director across the UK and Ireland, Ronan Harris, admitted something must change in the way ads are served on YouTube. The “move” the site makes on ad formats is one that’s going to “build a better user experience”, he said of how it will build on the decision to axe 30-second unskippable ads.
If “you look at the depreciation of 30-second pre-roll and the arrival of the six second ads, that’s the result of the evolution of user behavior,” he continued. “Users are talking with their thumbs and we can see it in our data the types of ads that are engaging them and the ones that aren’t. The move that we’re making on the [ad] formats is one that’s going to build a better experience.”
Some observers point to the arrival of YouTube TV as a glimpse into how it will attempt will pull in more TV viewers. Their rationale being that it isn’t clear how the video site makes money, with growth being its priority to date.
Last November, YouTube revealed that 18 to 34-year olds in the UK watch up to 45 minutes of it a day, a rise Harris said it is “delighted” with, showing signs of “continued growth”. The issue some agencies and advertisers have with numbers like this is that total viewing time on the platform can be misleading and they would rather look at viewing time per person as a better gauge of where YouTube stacks up against TV.
Thinkbox’s report found that YouTube accounted for 6.4% of average video viewing in 2016, up from 4.4% the year prior, whereas TV had a 74.8% share of 4 hours, 37 minutes, up from 4 hours, 35 minutes in 2015. Again, the video site proved more popular among younger viewers, with 15.6%% of the video viewing of 16 to 24-year olds on YouTube last year, up from 10.3% the previous year. Facebook’s proportion of 16 to 24-year olds’ video viewing dropped from 5.7% in 2015 to 2.5% in 2016. Other online video – including video found on newsbrand and magazine websites, other video services such as Vimeo, and the long tail of online video – shrank from 6.6% in 2015 to 2.5% in 2016.
“TV is a trusted, high quality environment for advertisers that is proven to work,” said Clay. “It has a huge variety of premium programming across every genre and can satisfy the demands of many thousands of advertisers simultaneously and for the long-term. Now more than ever these are crucial distinctions between it and a lot of other types of video.”
Thinkbox's video analysis combined 2016 data from The Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board (BARB), comScore, the IPA’s Touchpoints 2016 study, Ofcom’s 2016 Digital Day study and Rentrak box office data to give a like for like comparison of estimated video consumption in the UK.