MediaPost: FreeWheel Makes Its Case For Premium Video
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FreeWheel Makes Its Case For Premium Video

April 21, 2016, by , Staff Writer, MediaPost

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It’s called “The Unrivaled Value of Premium Value” but a lot of what’s in this new white paper from the so-called FreeWheel Council for Premium Video is a lot less unequivocal, at least around the edges.

In short, the summary of the report I read comes to a lot of near-conclusions while driving toward the big sum-up. Premium video is worth it.

But they bat around the vagaries. “The accelerated growth in OTT is a key trend to watch,” the summary says.  “A 50-inch screen in a living room creates truly valuable marketing opportunities: this is an inherently advertiser-friendly scenario with human viewers proactively engaging with content in a lean-back environment.”

On the other hand: “Despite the clear benefits of the living room environment, premium video providers are finding inherent challenges in selling through significant portions of this inventory due to tactical reasons, in some cases related to measurement and technology: demographics cannot always be verified, viewability and fraud cannot yet be fully measured across all screens and third party ad serving is not always available.”

So there’s that.

The FreeWheel Council obviously wants to make the case for premium video. So to do that it, raises red flags and then, seemingly, lower them in an ask-and-answered kind of way.

“New data not only highlights that premium video is highly viewable, but also that the industry should be elevating the conversation to engagement instead of just focusing on metrics that are more necessary for lower-tier inventory,”  the report says.

A Moat-FreeWheel study resulted in a finding that says there is an “ almost 38 percentage-point improvement for premium video in a key engagement metric that measures if an ad was audible and visible upon completion—not just whether it was viewable for a couple of seconds.”

The FreeWheel Council is made up of the old standbys of the content business–let’s call it TV–including ABC, A+E Networks, Comcast, Discovery Communications, ESPN, Fox, NBCUniversal, Turner Broadcasting System and Univision Communications. This report was also written with input from big brands, including Bank of America and State Farm Insurance.

The study finds most premium viewing–60% comes from the Big and Small division, namely OTT devices and smartphones. Ads delivered via OTT have increased 76% between 2014 and 2015, this study notes from an earlier report, but smartphone ad views are up 92%. (The summary of the report, though, is otherwise not very illuminating about premium views from smartphones, or maybe it’s just me who noticed a little work around on that.)

What’s stressed is that the real bad actors in online advertising are, well, the bad actors.

It notes, for example, that “A recent Association of National Advertisers/White Ops study shows that 23% of video ad impressions are bot-driven; meanwhile, publishers buying third party sourced traffic report bot-fraud rates of 52%.”

When the FreeWheel Council looked at premium video sites with Moat, it found that “non-human traffic within premium video on desktop was nearly non-existent, with 98.9% of traffic registering as real, valuable audiences.”

On the other hand, “Premium video publishers continue to meet and exceed industry-wide standards for foundational metrics like viewability,” said Jonah Goodhart, CEO, Moat, in an email exchange, He  added  that “the metrics that matter will only continue to improve “ as volume increases.

While there’s a lot of this-and-that in the white paper summary, there’s not any doubt where its premium video heart is. In one portion, the FreeWheel Council more or less advises advertisers to quit worrying so much.

“Sales, planning, publishing and operations teams at premium video publishers (and their buy-side equivalents) today spend far too much time negotiating, executing, monitoring and optimizing against layers of technologies that seek to minimize risk,” the summary says. “This makes sense for some environments but many of the current executions are out of balance when applied to the premium video economy.”

And when people get too careful,  “These executional challenges all too frequently delay campaign launches, drive up costs, and negatively impact the user experience due to resulting delivery challenges.”