What dictates the length of video content is how distribution looks, according to Ran Harnevo, president of video at AOL. Harnevo spoke with eMarketer’s Danielle Drolet about the state of digital video streaming and the opportunities ahead for marketers.
eMarketer: How are viewing patterns changing in digital video streaming?
Ran Harnevo: People watch more videos on desktop than they used to. Even though overall US desktop traffic is declining, my intuition is that online video still grows. With mobile and tablets taking off and connected TV becoming the next new thing, it’s important to be across all devices.
We’re getting to a point where being screen-agnostic is the only way to approach consumers, because they watch more videos on every platform.
eMarketer: What about mobile?
Harnevo: Mobile video is huge in time spent and engagement. We’re all getting used to new consumer behaviors. You can sit in the taxi and watch videos, which felt uncomfortable two years ago. I’ll be walking down the street, and I’ll bump into people that are watching videos while they’re walking. It’s all changing.
“We don’t have a silo strategy for every screen. Technology-wise, distribution-wise and content-wise, we’ve got to fit all of them.”
It changes consumer behavior. But, from a demographic perspective, we’re not seeing a meaningful change, because it became mainstream and everyone is watching.
There’s an appetite for all lengths of content. Usually, time spent is dictated by screen size. The smaller the screen, the smaller the attention span. If you go with connected TVs, play with longer forms. With mobile, be short.
eMarketer: How are you addressing and handling the shift to mobile?
Harnevo: Because a lot of our library is short-form, we’ve been ready. Also, what’s really nice about mobile is that news works really nicely, and it’s something we already had in our library.
There’s migration. Mobile helps people watch more video news than text news. As an open platform, we distribute our stuff to many publishers. We’re dependent on publishers’ migration into mobile.
We’re pretty much in line with market growth. We don’t have a silo strategy for every screen. Technology-wise, distribution-wise and content-wise, we’ve got to fit all of them.
eMarketer: Long-form vs. short-form content: Which has been more successful for you and why?
Harnevo: From our perspective, distribution dictates the length of the content. The notion that long-form is better than short-form is just a traditional point of view because we grew up with long.
What really dictates the length of the content is how your distribution looks. When we go for long-form it’s because we are increasing our traffic on tablets and connected TVs, which are very receptive to long-form from a viewing standpoint. The more successful we are on the big screen, the more long-form we’re going to produce. I think it’s a misconception that it has to do with quality.
“The notion that long-form is better than short-form is just a traditional point of view because we grew up with long.”
eMarketer: Recently, many major platforms have been merging and acquiring, including AT&T and DIRECTV, YouTube and Twitch, Disney and Maker Studios, and Comcast and Time Warner. What does this say about the state of streaming video today?
Harnevo: Everyone understands that they need to own content, distribution and technology. Before the market was so competitive and the barrier to entry was very high, you could have owned one of those three and been huge. Today, content, distribution and technology should be in your bag if you want to get big.
eMarketer: What opportunities and challenges exist for marketers today that want to activate campaigns and efforts around streaming video?
Harnevo: We were used to having a very consolidated market in the traditional video industry. Today, traffic is getting fragmented, and it’s challenging for marketers. How do you scale in this fragmented ecosystem?
On the other hand, it’s a huge opportunity because fragmentation allows emerging talent to have a voice, and it helps disruption in so many ways.
Marketers need to understand fragmentation profoundly, both on content distribution and technology. And if they do, then those marketers can reach audiences in ways they never have before.