The Integration of TV and Online Video: Digital Twist on Traditional Media

The debate between online video marketing and traditional television advertising has heated up as a result of the incredible growth in online video viewing. Articles weighing the pros and cons of both have graced the pages of most major media outlets, but when it comes to advertising dollars, the scale remains tipped in television’s favor. In terms of reach and audience size, television also reigns supreme:

“Consumers spend nearly 159 hours watching video each month, including nearly 147 hours on TV. And advertising dollars follow suit: Nielsen research found that roughly $78 billion was spent on TV advertising in 2013, and eMarketer estimates that online video will attract $5.72 billion in 2014,” states a Nielsen and Simulmedia report.

However, an ongoing shift in consumer behavior demands attention from brands and marketers: people want to consume and pay for content on their own terms based on individual needs. Hence, the emergence and rising popularity of streaming TV. Easily accessible across multiple devices, streaming video services such as Netflix, Hulu, HBO Go, Amazon and YouTube are thriving as viewers seek out video on demand.

Almost 40% of US online adults use a DVR, and 15% tap online sources for 4-plus hours of TV viewing per week, according to a 2013 Forrester survey of 61,000 US and 5,800 Canadian adults. The survey also found that Gen Y and Gen Z embrace online viewing with gusto: 24% and 32%, respectively, watch 4-plus hours of online TV per week, compared to 12% of Gen X and 7% of Younger Boomers.

Although not every site allows ads (i.e. Netflix), there are plenty of sites that do (i.e. Hulu and Xfinity). Brands and marketers have the opportunity to reach viewers with in-stream ads, that appear before, during or after an online video. This is where online video and television collide, creating the closest thing (digitally) to television broadcast advertising. Though traditional TV may attract more viewers, it’s beneficial to note some of the key viewership statistics for Hulu and Xfinity:


  • 4 million paid subscribers
  • 30 million monthly users
  • 1hr 13min – average time per visit
  • 1.1 billion ads served in January 2014
  • Jan 2014 – Delivered highest frequency of video ads to viewers (avg. 81)


  • Over 19 million+ subscribers
  • Over 24+ Million Monthly Unique Visitors
  • Over 2.3 Billion Monthly Page Views
  • 6.6 Average Minutes per Visit
  • 13.9 Monthly Visits per Visitor

Surprisingly, ads shown on streaming TV and movie applications tend to enjoy fairly high satisfaction rates among their users. ForeSee conducted a study in which it found that 37% of respondents don’t pay attention to the ads they see on the mobile sites and apps. However, respondents were as likely to say they don’t notice the ads as they were to say they frequently look at them (19% each).

Additionally, 17% noted that some of the ads they’ve seen were relevant to their interests, 13% said their experience is enhanced by the ads, and 13% said they have clicked on ads in the mobile site or application.

As an added perk, Hulu provides viewers with an Ad Swap option. The streaming site understands that users want more choice and control, while advertisers need to eliminate waste (via targeting) and enhance ad effectiveness. So Hulu conducted research around its Ad Swap initiative and reported some very positive results:

“Video ads that a user proactively chose to swap into (versus a video ad that was served at random) performed to a significantly greater degree than those that were not:

  • Unaided Recall of the brand went from 30% to 58% (+93%)
  • Aided Recall became near universal, from 59% to 91% (+54%)
  • Brand Favorability went from 34% to 43% (+27%)
  • Purchase Intent went from 23% to 31% (+35%)
  • Stated Relevancy went from 15% to 22% (+46%)”

Marketers and brands have a unique opportunity to serve advertising content to receptive viewers via online streaming sites. Of course traditional television attracts a sizeable audience; but as more people turn to video on demand, online video and television will collide, creating a much-needed bridge between traditional and digital marketing.

About Hannah Brenzel

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