Skip to main content

FreeWheel Report Charts Rise in CTV, Programmatic

A family watches content on multiple screens in their living room.
(Image credit: Eric Audras/Getty Images)

FreeWheel, Comcast’s ad-tech company, traces the explosive growth of connected TV and programmatic ad buying in its new 10th anniversary Video Market Report.

Over the decade, digital video has moved from the computer screen and back to the living room with connected TV. CTV made up 62% of all measured ad views in the second half of 2020. Back in the fourth quarter of 2012, just 12% of video views were on devices other than laptops. 

Ad views were up 57% in the second half of 2020 from the second half of 2019. TV Everywhere made up 40% of ad views and streaming accounted for 38%.

Also Read: FreeWheel Opens Doors to Strata Data Warehouse


(Image credit: FreeWheel)

In terms of devices, Roku had 43% of CTV ad views in the second half of 2020, followed by Amazon Fire TV with 29%.

“We’ve observed enormous changes in the TV industry over the past decade, making it critical that marketers stay on top of trends in distribution, monetization, audience behavior and ad experience,” said Dave Clark, general manager at FreeWheel.

“In observing this time frame, the big story has been fragmentation, but ironically, fragmentation of video viewing has brought viewers back to their living rooms as connected TV continues to lead the pack,” Clark said.

FreeWheel also said that programmatic transactions accounted for 24% of premium video ad views in the second half of 2020. Programmatic was just starting to get traction in 2015 with 5% of the inventory.

Similarly, audience targeting has also increased to 91% of ad views, up 57%. About half of those used demographic targets and the other half were behavioral targets.

“The future of video advertising will be more automated and programmatic, but won’t exactly mirror how most digital media is sold. Instead, it will be much more curated, with more direct negotiations, and a more intense focus on quality, privacy, and safety,” the report said.

The FreeWheel report looks ahead to trends that will shape the TV industry over the next decade.

1. Competition to be the TV operating systems (TVOS) – SmartTVs with streamlined user interfaces, diverse content and reduced ad loads will put first movers such as Roku and Amazon on defense.

2. DTC Gets Crowded – DTC will continue to be critical for publishers because it enables them to own consumer data directly. DTC streaming services will either adopt a low-price strategy to stand out, or they will go the other direction and compete on premium original content.

3. Content is King, But How to Scale the Kingdom? – Studios and DTC services will continue to integrate as part of companies' efforts to create original content that attracts audiences.

4. Live Streaming Grows – Live streaming will not slow down. In fact, it will expand into other areas, including gaming, social media and audio.

5. Programmatic Gets Savvy - Programmatic video won’t exactly mirror how most digital media is sold. It will be much more curated, and security and privacy will be critical to scale.