Video Consumption Trends Across JW Player Network Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

The spread of COVID-19 has created a large amount of uncertainty for every community around the globe in terms of its impact on our health, our families, and our livelihoods. JW Player has the privilege of working with thousands of video publishers around the world who play vital roles in informing, educating, providing connection, and bringing joy to their viewers every single day, and today more than ever.

In order to help our customers be as successful in their missions as they can be, we’re monitoring video trends across the JW Network to understand how our customers are being impacted. Drawing from billions of data points we collect each day across hundreds of millions of viewer sessions, we hope this data can help to provide important context as video publishers navigate these uncertain times. Below are some of our findings. 

Video Consumption on our network is up 40% in the past 30 days

Video traffic has seen a dramatic increase across our network, with an especially pronounced surge in the past two weeks. This change coincides with large-scale stay-at-home orders issued around the world and throughout much of the United States, and mirrors increases in overall internet traffic reported by CDNs such as Cloudflare. The figure below shows the relative change in daily viewer sessions, video plays, and time watched since January 20, the date of the first confirmed COVID-19 case in the US. Over this time frame, video plays, viewer sessions, and time watched have increased by 46%, 49% and 74%, respectively.

Ad Impressions are up 40% in the past 30 days, keeping pace with the surge in video consumption

While increases in video sessions and consumption are great positive signs, we also wanted to understand the impact to ads across our network, given that the majority of video publishers monetize their content through advertising. We’ve found an increase in ad impression volume mirroring the surge in video consumption, with Daily Ad Impressions up 54% in the past two months. The result is that the number of ads per video play has held steady over this time, currently showing about a 5% increase compared to two months ago.

A Closer Look at Publisher Level Performance

While the network-wide perspective gives us an indication about how video publishers are faring on average, we know the story will be variable for different publishers depending on differences in their audiences, strategies, and the nature of their content. In order to understand better how individual publishers are faring, we looked at the fraction of publishers who have seen gains in video consumption and ad impressions over the last 30 days. About 75% of publishers have seen a lift in video consumption over this time - as measured by video plays, viewer sessions, and overall time watched - and 69% have seen increases in ad impressions.

That, of course, raises the question: which publishers are faring well and which ones are not? To begin to address this, we grouped our publishers by their most common content category (based on plays in the past week) and looked to see how each individual publisher performed over the last 30 days. For each metric we observed, we then computed the median change during that time across the publishers in each group. Below are the results for the dozen most common publisher video categories.

Content category is clearly playing a significant role in the success of publishers over the last month. Some publishers -- notably those in sports, due to the cancellation of nearly all major sporting events -- are understandably struggling, but the majority of others are doing quite well across the board. While there are likely many factors at play in driving this increased consumption, the broad increase across categories suggests that this is not driven solely by people seeking news or scientific content about COVID-19. In fact, only a moderate portion of the consumption uptick seen network-wide over the past month is attributable to videos directly mentioning COVID-19 (i.e. videos having “covid” or “virus” in their title).

Looking forward

The global environment is changing rapidly for every business worldwide, and video publishing is certainly no exception. Thus far during the COVID-19 pandemic, we've seen a dramatic and wide-ranging increase in video consumption, with healthy growth in ad impressions to go along with it. That said, we expect the video publisher landscape to continue to shift over the next several months as the circumstances surrounding the pandemic evolve, and as advertisers adjust their budgets and their strategies going into the second quarter of the year. Look for additional updates from us on the video advertising and video consumption landscape in the weeks to come.