FreeWheel Council Study Finds Fewer Spots Boost Engagement

Viewers expect a high ad load

Viewers expect to have to sit through numerous commercials when they watch short-form video content, but their engagement with ads increases as the load decreases, according to a new study from the FreeWheel Council.

The report notes that people are consuming more content on more screens. On mobile in particular, the content is mainly short-form, and the size of the ad load is a big factor in the effectiveness of those ads.

The study found that viewers actually expect to see a high number of ads while viewing content—and much as three ads for four video clips.

“The ratio of content to ads is a delicate balance but there is clear evidence from this research that there is a halo effect on engagement levels for both content and ads when combined. Lower ad loads encourage higher engagement levels as users do not get fatigued or frustrated by frequent interruptions, so the key is finding the appropriate level, which may be further determined by content lengths and screen size,” the report said.

The report found that when the ad load is very low—a single ad for example—engagement with the ads mirrors content engagement.

Giving the viewer a choice is also important. Half of the viewers preferred to watch a longer ad at the start of a session in order to watch ad-free afterwards.

This suggests that publishers need to put the viewer first, the report concluded.

The FreeWheel Council for Premium Video said it will continue to focus on the ad experience as a vital element of moving the premium video ecosystem forward.

The council was formed by ad tech firm FreeWheel, a subsidiary of Comcast. Participants in the council include ABC, A+E Networks, Comcast, Discovery Communications, ESPN, Fox, NBCUniversal, Turner Broadcasting and Univision Communications.