OTT.X Presenters: Online Viewing Growing and Services Proliferating in COVID Era

COVID accelerated online viewing, viewing habits are undergoing a big transformation, and the proliferation of OTT services has prompted the need to aggregate and partner, research presenters said at the OTT.X Fall Summit in Los Angeles Sept. 1.

“In December 2019, before the viewing uptake [with stay-at-home orders] we saw about 68 million OTT households watching about 6.4 billion hours of OTT content in a month,” noted Ray Yinger, director of marketing solutions at Comscore. “By June of 2021, this had risen to about 82 million active OTT homes watching about 8.3 billion hours of content through OTT. Though we see a bit of a dropoff after January of 2021 as some of the states began opening up and we began leaving our homes a little bit, the number of households who engage in various OTT services stays very strong. As the data show, the overall appetite for OTT content accelerated through the pandemic. More households than ever before now engage in OTT services.”

With the increased viewership also came an explosion of OTT services.

“As of the first half of 2021, there are globally 5,000 active SVOD services, more than 2,000 active AVOD and free TV services and over 1,200 transactional services available to the global consumer,” noted Marija Masalskis, advertising research lead at Omdia.

Consumers are finding services on smart TVs and other aggregation players.

“When we asked consumers how they found something to watch, flicking through channels and services came up on top, particularly among the U.S. consumers,” Masalskis said. “So what this really means is that you need to be available on these platforms that enable this new channel flicking, enable seamless discovery of content, enable consumers to just lean back and scroll through and find your service.”

Other partnerships are key, as they offer free-with-sub bundles and prime placement.

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“Partnerships with global telcos and digital aggregators are essential, not just for SVOD companies to subsidize their offering but also to AVOD companies, particularly as you see the emergence of connected TV advertising,” she said. “In fact, we expect TV to account for 25% of all online video spend by 2025. And we do expect that partnerships and alliances will be absolutely necessary to reach the scale that will enable AVOD services to compete.”

Another key is consumers’ perception of value. Consumers are willing to pay less and wait through ads, and the higher-priced premium model isn’t necessarily most profitable for services such as Hulu.

“The user that pays a smaller subscription price but is exposed to advertising brings in more revenue than the user that is on their most premium tier opting to pay more to not see ads,” Masalskis said, adding “they perceive that they are getting a premium service for a discount.”

Also, binge viewing may be on the wane as a way to attract subscribers.

“What we started to see recently is that acquisition shows are starting to have a weekly release and retention shows are being dropped as a binge,” said Renee Engelhardt, global director of partner insights at Parrot Analytics.

Streaming services aren’t the only beneficiaries of the new order.

Nelson Granados, professor of information systems and technology management, Pepperdine University, noted that in addition to video streaming, digital video rental is holding its ground and digital sellthrough is continuing to grow (8% from 2016 to 2021).

“There is a market for electronic sellthrough and it’s growing, so there is a market for downloading content and it’s steadily growing unaffected by SVOD,” he said.

Comscore to Provide Connected TV Measurement for YouTube and YouTube TV

Comscore Aug. 9 announced it will be including YouTube and YouTube TV measurement into its cross-platform service, Comscore Campaign Ratings. The pact with the Google-owned platforms will help Comscore provide marketers with a better understanding of how audiences are consuming content on YouTube and YouTube TV across desktop, mobile, and connected TVs.

Comscore data metrics provides advertisers and agencies with a deduplicated view of reach and frequency across linear TV, OTT/CTV, PC and mobile inventory. This includes measurement for co-viewers on OTT/CTV. The new capability will pave the way for advertisers and agencies to understand combined co-viewing for YouTube and YouTube TV across OTT/CTV as well as incremental reach to their linear TV buys, providing total cross-platform ad measurement.

“People are watching more YouTube than ever — on mobile, on laptops, and especially on our fastest growing screen, the TV, and we want to ensure advertisers can measure their reach across all devices with third-party partners like Comscore,” Debbie Weinstein, VP of global solutions for YouTube, said in a statement. “We also know people are choosing to watch their favorite YouTube content on connected TVs with others, and the inclusion of co-viewing in this new integration will allow advertisers to understand the full scale of the audience they’re able to reach through YouTube CTV campaigns.”

The rise of streaming on CTV devices continues to create new opportunities for advertisers to reach viewers. Amid such growth and with the proliferation of streaming video services, the addition of YouTube and YouTube TV to Comscore will enable one of the largest advertising sources for modern cross-platform measurement.  As previously published by Comscore, more than 80% of CTV reach in the U.S. falls on only five streaming services — and only two are ad-supported.

“This is a critical milestone for Comscore and for the industry,” said Comscore CEO Bill Livek. “Our clients are placing a large portion of their advertising spend with YouTube, and they need a holistic view of how that spend is performing relative to the entire media mix.”

Livek previously headed home entertainment distributor Rentrak, which was acquired by Comscore in 2016.

Comscore CFO Departing

Comscore CFO Greg Fink is leaving the company “to pursue new interests,” the company announced.

Fink, who joined the media research firm in 2017, will depart at the end of August 2021. Comscore has retained a leading executive search firm to identify a new CFO, and Fink has agreed to provide support during the search process to ensure an orderly transition, according to Comscore.

“I thank Greg for his many contributions toward helping set the company on a course for success,” Comscore CEO Bill Livek said in a statement. “He has built a strong team, which I am confident will carry on the foundational work that enables us to continue our evolution to provide the best modern measurement services for the future of media.”

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“Over the last four years, we have developed a strong finance team, rebuilt our processes, implemented a new ERP, and refinanced our balance sheet.  I’m proud of the work we have done, and grateful for the opportunity to work with this team,” Fink said in a statement.

Comscore: Nearly 90% of Movie Theater Locations Open Globally

The latest box office figures from Comscore show nearly 90% of movie theater locations are now open globally for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“At Comscore, we´ve been privileged to witness firsthand how our partners in the global exhibition community have fought daily against the adversity of the pandemic and recovery has been remarkable,” Arturo Guillén, EVP and global managing director for Comscore Movies, said in a statement. “The latest box office openings and revenue show that throughout the world, consumers are clamoring to be back at the movies in their preferred theaters.”

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Films such as Universal’s F9, which has thus far generated more than $500 million worldwide, along with Paramount’s with A Quiet Place Part II, Disney’s Cruella, Warner Bros.’ The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, Sony’s Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway and Lionsgate’s The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard, have collectively generated more than $1.3 billion in global box office revenue, according to Comscore.

“As the studios continue to ramp up the rollout of their most-anticipated films, audiences are showing up at their local cinemas to enjoy the big screen experience,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst, Comscore, said in a statement. “Blockbuster films shown in a movie theater become ‘must see’ events that no matter where you live, speak the international language of cinema to like-minded movie fans around the world.”

WarnerMedia Joins Comscore Programmer Trials

Media measurement company Comscore June 9 announced that WarnerMedia is the first national programmer to formally participate in the media measurement company’s upstart “National Addressable TV” programmer trials.

Addressable advertising aims to deliver commercials targeting specific demos and consumer groups rather than mass canvassing population groups.

Starting in late 2020, Comscore said WarnerMedia, with properties including Warner Bros. Pictures, HBO and Turner, has executed national addressable campaigns across multiple MVPD platforms.

WarnerMedia is the first media company to test pilot the program enabling programmers to measure their national linear inventory across multiple multi-video program distributors and connected TV providers while monitoring inventory allocation strategies and measurement parameters.

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“We believe that addressable advertising is a premium experience and an opportunity that allows brands and agencies to reach the right audience with the right ad at the right time,” JP Colaco, head of advertising sales for WarnerMedia, said in a statement.

Colaco said that to maximize the value of the company’s content to advertisers, it is important to offer marketers transparency in measurement through a third party.

“Comscore’s efforts to provide aggregated measurement, at scale, across MVPD and CTV footprints is an important advancement for agencies, brands and sellers,” Colaco said.

Comscore has been conducting measurement trials across over the past year. The company’s “national addressable” solution is open to all national programmers and CTV/ MVPD providers that plan to execute similar TV campaigns as part of their national ad inventory strategy.

Comscore Launching Cross-Platform Movie Transaction Data Service

Comscore Jan. 25 announced new software that aims to report daily movie sales regardless of release windows and platform. This will include a new reporting system to track box office movies’ performances across all platforms.

Dubbed “Movies Everywhere,” the new product will meld Comscore’s census-based box office and transactional video measurement with OTT video rentals and streaming views. The service will measure a movie’s box office performance in combination with demographics, audience sentiment and consumer behavior, from the big-screen theatrical presentation to the small screen multi-platform release.

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“The undeniable reality is that the pandemic has forced us all to throw out conventional wisdom and take a fresh look at how we operate,” Chris Aronson, president of domestic distribution at Paramount Pictures, said in a statement. “We’re confident that people are going to return to theaters in force. But with more consumer choices for content consumption, means we need new solutions to truly understand audience behavior as they engage with content on their terms and their screens. We all have to adapt.”

Comscore will provide the ability to track and synthesize the demographics of moviegoers as well as individuals who viewed advertisements. In the face of rapidly-evolving media consumption patterns, studios could benefit from having audience information available at both the national and regional levels — to identify behavioral trends that can help inform optimal release windows.

“We’ve seen incredible changes in audience behavior over the past year in the way that people consume content,” said Erik Lomis, president of distribution, United Artists Releasing. “As a result, the industry needs to reinvent the way we capture audience engagement.”

Movies Everywhere is the latest in a series of product innovations that Reston, Va.-based Comscore has developed during the coronavirus pandemic, including a new and improved movies reporting and analytics suite and the release of its next generation movie theater management system.

“Just as we delivered the first transparent studio share reports and the first Movies on Demand promo conversion analysis, we are once again innovating to provide studios the consideration needed to reinvent their strategies and thrive in this new era,” said Comscore CEO Bill Livek. 

Comscore: 2020 Global Box Office Revenue Plummeted 71%

The global pandemic wreaked havoc on the movie theater business as thousands of screens were ordered shuttered beginning last March to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. Global box office plummeted 71% to $12.2 billion, compared with $42.5 billion in 2019, as large percentages of screens remained closed or operating under limited seating restrictions.

New data from Comscore  attempts to put a positive spin on the situation, suggesting that a combination of a well-managed pandemic response coupled with strong local product led to a strong theatrical recovery in many countries in the second half of the year.

Though as expected the results were much lower than in a traditional year, the aforementioned revenue demonstrates that with careful planning, adherence to local health regulations and engaging content, studios and exhibitors found a path to survival even as the world continues to navigate the coronavirus pandemic.

The $2.25 billion performance of the North American box office underscored the fact several new movies found audiences both at the drive-in and in the limited number of brick-and-mortar theaters that were open despite an almost unlimited availability of filmed content at home on the small screen. Films as varied as Tenet, Wonder Woman 1984, The Croods: A New Age, Unhinged and The Wretched drew movie fans to the big screen in 2020.

China has seen the strongest box-office recovery post-lockdown. Initially closing in January 2020, the Chinese market remained closed for a full six months (despite a brief, and quickly abandoned, re-opening in late March). The whole-market return approach seems to have sold the message better to moviegoers, rebuilding a broader consumer confidence more quickly with local titles like The Eight Hundred and My People, My Homeland powering this rebound, both movies generating more than $400 million in revenue.

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Japan, like every other country, was affected by the reduction of worldwide theatrical releases. However, the ability to have local titles (like Demon Slayer: Mugen Train and I’m From Today!) released into the market allowed Japan to continue to operate with a steady stream of films and thus continued to attract audiences.

Like China and JapanSouth Korea has also realized gains from showcasing local product, allowing the Korean market to boast solid results with the appeal of films The Man Standing Next and Deliver Us From Evil reflected in their strong box office performance.

This success was not limited to the Asia Pacific region, other countries such as Spain had success with individual titles such as Padre No Hay Mas Que Uno 2 (Father There Is Only One 2) that back in late-July served to jump-start Spain’s box office by 100% week over week. The film was number one in Spain, in 2020 generating $15.2 million.

“Though the pandemic has caused much disruption to the theatrical business, there are encouraging signs of recovery in many countries around the world,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, said in a statement. “Today we know that audiences are anxious to return to enjoy the theatrical experience, and the many notable successes prove that if cinemas are open and offer great content, moviegoers are indeed excited to watch appealing movies on the big screen.”

Comscore Nears Refinancing Deal With Charter Spectrum, Retail and Private Equity Groups

Comscore, the media metrics company headed by former Rentrak CEO Bill Livek, is reportedly finalizing a fiscal restructuring agreement that includes funding from cable TV operator Charter Spectrum, the corporate owner of QVC and Home Shopping Network (HSN), and private-equity firm Cerberus Capital Management.

Charter is a customer of Comscore’s media tracking software, a market that is rapidly evolving as a result of consumer migration toward over-the-top video consumption, including SVOD and ad-supported VOD. Major rival includes Nielsen Holdings, which in September began tracking Netflix, Disney+, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video content ratings over connected televisions.

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Bill Livak

When finalized, Comscore would be in a better position financially to deal with more than $200 million in debt repayment due this year, according to The Wall Street Journal, which cited sources familiar with the situation. Charter, in return, would garner enhanced media metrics across its growing distribution channels including pay-TV and broadband.

Comscore in 2019 named Bill Livak CEO after the firm acquired the assets of Rentrak Corp., the Portland-based former DVD revenue-sharing distributor and upstart media metrics company, for $768 million. At Rentrak, Livak spearheaded the firm’s move away from packaged media to next-generation products aimed at measuring theatrical and digital movies and TV everywhere content.

 

Report: Disney+ Generated $270 Million in ‘Mulan’ PVOD Sales

The Walt Disney Co.’s calculated foray into premium VOD distribution for original movie Mulan reportedly has been a fiscal home run. Yahoo! Finance, citing data from 7Park Data, contends the movie has been purchased by 9 million Disney+ subscribers for $29.99 each through Sept. 12. That tally would suggest the $200 million budget movie, which was released on Sept. 4, has generated an impressive $270 million in direct-to-consumer revenue.

Unlike a typical PVOD transaction that gives a viewer a limited time period, usually 48 hours, to watch the movie, the Disney PVOD system, dubbed Premier Access, is set up to allow Disney+ subscribers to pay the premium fee to unlock the movie on Disney+ for as long as they are subscribers, effectively giving those who pay early access to the movie before it becomes available to all subscribers in a few months.

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App download tracking firm Sensor Tower previously disclosed that downloads of the Disney+ app skyrocketed 68% through the Labor Day weekend (Sept. 4-6), compared with the previous-week time period. Samba TV, which tracks viewership on smart TVs, reported that 1.1 million U.S. households watched Mulan on Labor Day weekend.

Disney has not officially released any Mulan sales data, but CFO Christine McCarthy Sept. 10 told an investor group the media giant was “very pleased” with PVOD sales data thus far.

The results, if true, would be another dagger to the theatrical window and suggests that Disney’s theatrical brand resonates (at significantly higher margin) as much with consumers in the home as at movie theaters. Disney generated a staggering $11.1 billion at the global box office in 2019 — including 33% of all domestic box office ticket sales. It was the first time a studio had controlled that much of the North American box office since 1999, according to Comscore.

Regardless, the movie, which stars Liu Yifei in the iconic Mulan role, had received middling reviews, plenty of controversy over filming locations in China accused of violating the human rights of ethnic Muslims, and lackluster box office sales in the Communist country.

Comscore: Five OTT Services Command 80% of Streaming Hours in U.S.

Comscore on July 6 released new data that found five streaming video services (Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Hulu, Netfli and YouTube) collectively represent more than 80% of all OTT streaming hours in the United States.

Since the report is co-partnered with YouTube, much attention is given to the Google-owned social media platform, including increased (by 13%) household penetration in 2020, and 34% uptick since March 2019.

“We uncovered recent, rapid changes in the industry due to the growth of OTT services, content and devices, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on consumer behavior,” Comscore’s Alison Robart and Kim Gardner wrote in a post.

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They wrote that since January, while all streaming services have increased their reach, most of the growth came from services that reached ad-supported households. Overall, ad-supported video-on-demand services have extended their reach at a faster pace than non-ad-supported services (+9% growth in reach vs. +5%, respectively, between January and April).

“This is good news for advertisers, as it means their content is getting in front of more viewers,” Robart and Gardner wrote.

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While traditional devices such as desktops/laptops, phones and tablets have the largest reach across U.S. wireless households, Internet-connected TVs reached more than 70% of domestic households.

In addition to the growing reach of connected TVs, the amount of time spent watching content has increased as well. Time spent on YouTube increased 22% for total hours streamed (March 2019 vs. March 2020).

Notably, with audiences home more than ever, ComScore found that more than 60% of signed-in viewers of YouTube on TV watched a videos featuring titles that contain “Home Workout” (+340%), “Cooking/Recipes” (+45%), and “Meditation Videos” (+45%) and “Self-Care” (up +100%).