With most Americans confined to their couches this March amid coronavirus fears, there’s also more time than ever for audiences to be watching television. And without sports, viewers are looking for other engaging content to pass the time — which is something free, ad-supported TV services (FASTs) have been able to provide so far.
Viewership on FASTs like ViacomCBS’s Pluto TV and Fox’s recently acquired Tubi will most likely surge in the coming weeks, as people are looking for lean-back experiences during long stretches stuck in the house. Pluto TV has notably responded to viewer demands for content that reflect their own life experiences, launching new content verticals such as Pluto Latino’s 22 new channels geared toward Latin American viewers.
Looking more at the increase in TV and OTT viewership: MediaPost reported linear and streaming OTT viewing are each up 10% weekend over weekend — March 14-15 vs. March 7-8 — according to data from VIZIO. Further, VIZIO’s Inscape said over that period the average OTT session was 34 minutes, compared to 19 minutes for the average linear session time right now.
What does that mean for advertising? While OTT is enjoying as much growth as linear right now, OTT is outflanking linear with stronger tune-in. Our assumption is that connected TV ad requests would be trending up right now, so we turned to video ad management company Beachfront to see if we could verify the growing attention opportunity for advertisers in CTV.
Data from Beachfront shows a 105% increase in average daily CTV ad requests on the platform in March vs. February, despite March having nearly a week left to go in the month. Video requests are also up 51% when looking month over month through March 22.
The big increases come on the back of two straight weekends of no live sports and quarantines in some of the nation’s largest states and cities, and appears to be picking up steam over time, according to Beachfront.
Beachfront President and Founder Frank Sinton had this to say about the CTV leap:
“Typically, big increases in CTV ad requests come from major sporting events like March Madness, for sure, or the Olympics,” said Sinton. “Those are always the things driving people to television sets — and that’s just as true for digital.”
“Events like that are pretty big, and usually drive increases of 10, 20, 30% increase in usage,” added Sinton. “This is obviously different since the majority of people are both home watching TV, and don’t have the same stand-by programming like sports to watch.”
Beachfront also shared additional information about the brand industries trending up week over week among video advertisers, noting that family & parenting, food & beverage (particularly fast food and take out), pet care, eldercare and distance learning have all increased. A surge for any of those makes sense given the challenges inherent with the current environment. Brands are able to utilize CTV to provide targeted, relevant messages to the audiences that will be most receptive to them — while avoiding those that may not be.
Advertisers trending down include travel, movies, television and sports — none of which should shock after travel ad budgets (on national, live linear TV) have decreased by 63.8% month-over-month, according to recent data from iSpot.tv.
For brands that are appearing on television, however, there’s a potential opportunity to fill a void for audiences looking for information and direction in an uncertain time. It’s an interesting — and perhaps opportunistic, long-term — way for brands to grow affinity among viewers simply by using ad placements to advocate for and support their communities. As Sinton notes, “the smartest brands understand that dynamic, and use CTV to embrace the right balance in a national time of need.”
Sinton isn’t offering predictions on how the pandemic situation resolves itself, but he did express some positive views on how CTV would be able to embrace this unique moment in time for the country (and its TV audiences).
“People are turning toward TV as their main form of entertainment, and where cord-cutting hasn’t taken hold yet, it has a greater potential in this environment where household budgets are being met with more scrutiny and cable and satellite plans could come under the microscope more,” said Sinton.
“CTV has shown itself to be an effective platform to watch a diverse array of content — everything from premium, three-letter network content to more niche videos,” continued Sinton. “Connected TV is the great equalizer in terms of content, and at a time when people are largely confined to their homes, they’re looking for more, unique entertainment in addition to what you can watch on the traditional TV networks.”