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Europe’s CTV audience is switched on for ads

By Stefanie Briec, Director, Head of Demand Sales UK & International – FreeWheel @FreeWheel

Connected TV (CTV) audiences in Europe seem to have embraced streaming as their go-to destination for video entertainment, where they enjoy a wealth of content from a diverse set of providers. While subscription-based offerings have long dominated the landscape, ad supported services are gaining traction, delivering new user experiences as well as opportunities for brands.

In collaboration with market research company Happydemics, FreeWheel surveyed CTV viewers across the UK, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands (the “EU6”) to understand their preferences and how advertisers can tap into the connected audience.

Smart TV tops connection methods

The popularity and convenience of Smart TVs has led them to be the primary method of connecting to internet video throughout the EU6, with one notable exception. In France — where telco and pay TV operators have held strong — set-top boxes are the favored connection method, used by 72% of the French CTV viewers surveyed. On the other end of the scale, our study found that 86% of CTV viewers in Italy connect via Smart TVs, well above the EU6 average of 60%.

The popularity of premium and ad-supported options

As for what they watch once they are connected, long-form premium video content reigns supreme, with the majority (59%) of respondents using at least one subscription video on demand (SVOD) service. On average, EU6 CTV viewers surveyed spread their attention across 3.5 different streaming platforms, including SVOD, ad-supported video on demand (AVOD), broadcaster video on demand (BVOD) and live TV, showing that consumers are willing to switch between apps to find what they want.

However, when it comes to SVOD, there may be a point at which viewers reach “subscription saturation.” In fact, free ad supported tv services (FAST) are gaining in popularity. According to the survey, free streaming platforms, such as Pluto.TV and Molotov TV, see the highest uptake among viewers who subscribe to multiple paid services.

AVOD users come for the price, stay for the content

As SVOD giants Netflix and Disney+ tease their ad-supported tiers, EU6 CTV viewers surveyed are warming up to AVOD, with adoption by our connected respondents nearing two-fifths (38%). Consumers seem content with the trade-off of watching ads in exchange for content. In fact, 60% of these users said that free access was, unsurprisingly, the biggest appeal of such services. However, more than a third (36%) were won over by the variety and quality of content on offer.

With no cost barrier, we might expect audiences to dip in and out of AVOD. But those who try it tend to stick around, with over two-thirds of CTV viewers surveyed (68%) accessing ad-supported video every week, half of whom do so daily. AVOD appears to slip seamlessly into viewing schedules. This bodes well for platforms big and small exploring this new frontier of content monetization.

Big-screen ads grab attention best

Advertisers seeking to capitalize on CTV will be reassured to know that TV ad experience is considered the most effective by the vast majority (64%) of EU6 CTV viewers surveyed, with little variation between regions. In the age of distraction, attention-grabbing, big-screen ads provide an opportunity to maximize campaign impact.

One advantage of CTV is the ability to personalize ads for the viewer, and EU6 respondents were generally receptive to this. When asked which type of personalization they prefer: 37% chose ads related to their personal interests, 30% related to their lifestyle, and 23% for brands or products in line with their values, such as sustainability. While the EU6 CTV audience is accepting of ad personalization, they are not accepting of their personal data being used to achieve it, as stated by 62% of respondents.

Time to unlock CTV ad potential

Advertisers go where their audiences are, and in the EU6 countries they can be found enjoying premium video streamed via Connected TV. So, there is real potential to harness CTV platforms for campaigns, particularly when you look at the apparent shift of bigger SVOD players towards ad-supported models and concerns over subscription fatigue.

Normalizing AVOD should be good for viewers, platforms, and advertisers alike. Viewers get to try content with no upfront cost, while content platforms can compete on quality rather than price. Advertisers, meanwhile, would be able to target their ad spend and creative to key demographics, while having the potential to reach new audiences; all thanks to CTV’s “superpower” – the ability to combine the best attributes of TV and digital video in one place.


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Europe’s CTV audience is switched on for ads