The Risks and Rewards of Shifting Video Consumption

To get a sense of voters’ appetite for streaming video today, go ahead and ask anyone you know a question about Netflix’s “Tiger King.” Trust me, you’ll get a lively response.

For the last month, many of us have been consuming more streaming video at home. In fact, a headlining-making study recently found that Americans, on average, are logging in eight hours daily streaming video.

So how are these sudden shifts in consumer streaming habits affecting political and public affair campaigns? And what are the most effective and appropriate ways to navigate through these uncharted waters? We spoke directly with our OTT inventory partners for a look into what they’re seeing during this unique time. Here’s what we learned:

OTT streaming hours are up significantly.

According to Vizio, a streaming service and smart TV manufacturer, since the COVID-19 quarantine began last month, viewers are spending about 40 percent more time streaming ad-supported and subscription TV.

One of the largest OTT aggregators in our space is seeing similar trends, with a 30 percent increase in OTT ad requests, a 23 percent increase in out-stream video ad requests, and a somewhat negligible 5 percent increase in in-stream video ad requests. At our firm, we’ve seen a whopping increase of 81 percent in connected TV (CTV) impressions through our own properties and diversified partner sources.

Two months ago, our biggest problem was finding supply to meet demand for political and public affairs OTT requests. Now, that supply is catching up. These numbers make sense as most people are at home now and even if they claim to be working, they’re doing it with their CTV on and reading a lot more news.

Those Zoom meetings are taking place on second or even third screens while more interesting content plays on the largest connected screen in the house. In other words, there are a lot of you streaming much more video than your bosses think.

The giant uptick on consumption is attracting more bad guys. A recent White Ops study showed that fraudsters generated fictional devices (46 percent were Roku) domain spoofing, and impersonated more than 2 million people.

As we shift sales and market resources to OTT, the players in our space with the most longevity will also be shifting engineering and fraud detection resources to protect the advertising supply chain. Even during the COVID-induced OTT bonanza, there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

More streaming is happening during daytime.

Consumer consumption habits have also flipped. Looking at our own data, one of the most significant changes is the increase in viewing hours during the middle of the day. In the New York designated market area (DMA) for example, March year-over-year cable consumption was up 33.2 percent for 9 a.m.- 4 p.m., far higher than any other time of day. Looking at adults 25-54, the jump was more pronounced — 71.4 percent.

Traditionally, OTT viewing has mirrored linear TV — very heavy in the morning and very heavy in primetime. Primetime remains the largest viewing block, but daytime is quickly catching up. ComScore reports a huge jump in daytime and early local news consumption. A recent analysis by ComScore’s Mandy Leef saw increases in viewership throughout the early morning and daytime dayparts year-over-year.

Leef observed that viewing levels are almost 10 percent higher at 6 a.m. this year versus last year. At this time last year, viewership levels would peak and plateau around 8 a.m. and stay flat until the early fringe daypart, but now they’re rising throughout the day. We see this as a new, albeit temporary, opportunity to reach adults with political and public affairs OTT messaging during the day that would normally have to be crammed into fewer hours on nights and weekends.

Another OTT supply-side platform we work with has seen a wide variety of viewing genres exhibit impressive growth as many folks experience news fatigue. Cooking shows, drama, comedies, crime, sci-fi, fitness and well-being programming are all on the rise as well as educational children’s content. With the exception of children’s apps, these emerging genres are also potential opportunities for political and public affairs campaigns to reach their audiences and gain affinity outside of the typical news and sports channels.

The pandemic has also stymied the expected increase in OTT costs. In terms of pricing, the usually supply-constrained marketplace has seen clearing prices drop around 10 percent.

This is most likely caused by massive consumer brand campaign pauses and cancellations, specifically around travel and tourism. It won’t last through summer, but it does present political and public affairs campaigns with an opportunity to do more on big screens before pricing inevitably rises.

Unless there are severe budgetary constraints, campaigns shouldn’t stop advertising. According to a recent global study from Kantar, there’s very little expectation among consumers that campaigns should stop advertising altogether. In fact, Kantar warns that a six-month absence from TV will result in an estimated 39-percent reduction in total brand communication awareness. There’s no reason to expect a different result for political or public affairs campaigns.

For a candidate, this could be devastating. Yes, political budgets may come down and be pushed back. But no, they will not dry up completely. Your pandemic media mix needs to adapt with changing consumption patterns. Regardless of the total spend, chase the eyeballs on who are streaming video on OTT.

Appropriate messaging and placement are key.

People are looking for information and direction during these uncertain times. Most consumers expect advertising to make a positive contribution to society including talking about how the candidate or cause is helpful, informing about their efforts to face the situation and offering a reassuring tone.

Maine Sen. Susan Collins’ (R) new ads have accomplished all of these things well and she’s seen an uptick in increased favorability. BPI’s Mike Schneider noted recently that “people are paying more attention to ads these days.” When looking across dozens of political, corporate and advocacy campaigns, there was nearly a 40-percent increase in video view rates since February, Schneider wrote.

Take advantage of the extra time voters are spending with OTT now, the trend toward mobile will revert once we get off our couches. This is your opportunity to show what calm leadership in a crisis looks like — save the negative hits for later.

By Kate Holliday, Director of Politics and Advocacy for Campaigns & Elections