Charting OTT's audience in Q2 2015: stats from Rentrak, comScore, Nielsen

How are audiences watching video today? What percentage of time do they spend watching online video versus live linear television? How engaged are they with the content they're watching?

As we did in the first quarter of 2015, we take a look at how OTT viewers are watching, accessing and talking about the content they're seeing, drawing on numbers reported by some of the top audience measurement firms including Nielsen, comScore and Rentrak.

In the first quarter, a lot of emphasis was being placed by measurement firms and the industry at large on social media engagement: how frequently viewers were mentioning a movie or TV show on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Correlating this data with other stats is a relatively new measurement device -- having been adopted by major players like Nielsen less than a year ago, although comScore has been providing a metric for a bit longer -- that gives analysts another dimension into viewer behavior.

Measuring a program's success solely by its social media engagement is hardly a sure thing, however. Nielsen pointed out the pitfalls of doing so in a May article explaining why certain TV series underperform on social media (in their case, Twitter, which is Nielsen's social media engagement benchmark), and why others succeed. A number of factors come into play, the article said, including the type of program -- drama, reality, etc. -- the network on which it airs, the size of the network's audience, and its target age group. "Said another way, basic differences between programs, such as TV audience size and what type of series each program is, can explain the majority of the difference in Twitter volumes between programs," Nielsen said.

How audiences are spending both their watch time and their money is another area of interest. Nielsen reported that in May 2015, about 9 percent of the dollars spent by the viewers it surveyed went to digital content (3 percent for subscription VOD, 3 percent for digital movie or TV purchases, 2 percent for PPV or VOD rentals, and 1 percent for digital movie rentals). That share is still nowhere near as high as what viewers are still shelling out for a pay-TV subscription -- approximately 47 percent of their entertainment dollars. One could read quite a bit into that difference -- such as SVOD services generally costing much less than a pay-TV subscription, or live television still commanding the bulk of a viewer's attention -- but it's interesting nonetheless. In the same report, Nielsen found that live TV watching takes up 35 percent of a viewer's typical week, while SVOD streaming took up about 10 percent of their viewing time. (Nielsen surveyed 2,828 individuals across several demographics in the U.S. as part of its Home Entertainment Consumer Trends: Digital Transition Tracker Report.)

Nielsen share of dollars spent May 2015

Source: Nielsen Home Entertainment Consumer Trends: Digital Transition Tracker Report, May 2015

Meantime, as comScore and Nielsen note, as mobile viewing continues to expand rapidly, measurement firms are increasing their view into the mobile device metric. For example, comScore is looking more deeply into smartphone usage, considering that U.S. viewers' usage time skews more toward mobile than it does in Canada or the UK according to a whitepaper it published in March.

comScore mobile skew US

Source: comScore The Global Mobile Report, March 2015

In the U.S., more than 61 percent of users surveyed view video on smartphones or tablets, compared to 39 percent viewing video primarily on desktop computers.

That's several percentage points higher than the UK, where 56 percent of users primarily view video on mobile devices, and Canada, where the number is 52 percent.

Nielsen also found that users are increasing the time they spend on their smartphones using both apps and Web browsers. Between Jan. 26 and May 1, 2015, the measurement firm found that adults 18 and over used apps and the Web 5.86 days per week on average, and spent an average of 627 minutes using apps and the Web per week during the period measured. For smartphone-based video viewing alone, adult usage averaged 2.68 days per week and 38 minutes per week.

Nielsen smartphone use 2015

Source: Nielsen Total Audience Report, Q1 2015

Below are a number of charts and stats released by these top three measurement firms over the first and second quarters of 2015. Because the data released by comScore, Rentrak and Nielsen are so disparate, we won't try to compare or draw conclusions from this information. Instead, look at it as a snapshot of the current digital video viewing environment.


Google Sites (including YouTube), Facebook and Yahoo Sites held firmly to the top three positions in online video content during the second quarter, with Google taking the lion's share of unique views, according to comScore's monthly rankings. VEVO and Maker Studios battled for fourth and fifth place. But the real scrum for online video took place in the bottom half of the top-ten ranking, with Vimeo, Fullscreen and Comcast/NBCUniversal appearing throughout the quarter but frequently being displaced by less-established properties such as AnyClip Media, Machinima and new entrant CBS Interactive.

comScore April online video properties

Source: comScore

comScore May online video properties

Source: comScore

comScore June online video properties

Source: comScore

During the quarter, Apple devices ranked as the top OEM equipment, but the Android platform topped iOS in terms of users. For apps, Facebook also reigns supreme in the mobile world, consistently holding over 70 percent of user reach, followed closely by YouTube's app.

comScore top smartphone apps April 2015

Source: comScore

comScore top smartphone apps May 2015

Source: comScore

comScore top apps June 2015

Source: comScore

Source: comScore Insights Market Rankings



Reality shows and sports held much of the nation's attention in May and into early June, with social media engagement peaking around shows like NBC's The Voice and Spike TV's Lip Sync Battle almost weekly. The Mayweather-Pacquiao fight scored big social engagement for ESPN's SportsCenter in late May.

Digital movie rentals and sales -- another solid area of measurement -- reflected varying audience tastes for movies. American Sniper, for example, landed at the number-one spot in late May and contended for the top two spots throughout the early summer.

Below is a snapshot of May rankings during the week of May 11, 2015. Rentrak doesn't publicly list digital movie sales and rental figures, only their ranking, but the chart helps outline what the measurement firm is seeing in the online video data that it can measure.

Rentrak May 2015 digital movies

Source: Rentrak

For engagement, however, Rentrak is more forthcoming. In the snapshot below for the same week of May 11, the firm gives day and digital audience numbers in terms of social media posts (such as on Twitter and Facebook) during the airing of each ranked broadcast or cable program.

Rentrak May engagement 2015

Source: Rentrak

In a snapshot of rankings about three weeks later, for June 1-6, Rentrak gives a glimpse of some of the interplay in where top releases land in digital sales and rentals, with American Sniper pushed to the number-three position, for example.

Rentrak June digital movies

Source: Rentrak

And we see a bit of a change in social media engagement across broadcast and cable TV series as the regular TV season ended, with the summer premiere of Pretty Little Liars topping social media posts on the night it aired, June 2, and perennial reality show favorites like America's Got Talent pushed to the number-three spot and lower.

Rentrak engagement June 2015

Source: Rentrak


The TV ratings company has been gauging audience engagement using Twitter since late 2014, producing some interesting results in terms of how much viewers are tweeting about popular TV programs. For example, in an overview of the 2014-2015 TV season, Nielsen noted that AMC series The Walking Dead had the largest Twitter audience throughout the period of Sept. 1, 2014 to May 24, 2015, with 1.3 million tweets sent during the season premiere alone.


Top moments on Twitter, Sept. 1,2014 – May 24, 2015

Nielsen top Twitter moments

Source: Nielsen

Nielsen publicly posts its Twitter results, but it also measures other social media outlets like Facebook, Snapchat and others.

Nielsen Facebook engagement 2015

Source: Nielsen

Another change in the online video landscape is the increasing amount of more detailed stats from media measurement firms like the ones above. Tune back in at the end of the third quarter to see how social media engagement moved the needle over the summer and early fall.


Charting OTT's audience in Q2 2015: stats from Rentrak, comScore, Nielsen