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Facebook boards the mid-roll ad train
Saturday, February 25, 2017
Facebook video is starting to look more like TV -- and chasing TV ad budgets as well.
 
The social media giant is now testing VOD mid-roll ad breaks with select partners, using the company’s new Ad Breaks feature for ads up to 15 seconds in length. An ad can start running after a video play reaches the 20-second mark.
 
At the same time, the company is expanding the beta test availability of mid-roll ad breaks in Facebook Live video streams for publishers that meet certain criteria: a minimum of 2,000 followers and 300 or more concurrent viewers for a recent live broadcast. 
 
This activity all aligns with Facebook's strategy for building long-form video, including more investments in long-form originals, connected TV accessibility, tools for TV advertisers, and plans for a type of Instant Articles offering for broadcasters.
 
The company's interest in mid-roll ads is not surprising. Mid-rolls are fast-becoming the darling among ad-roll formats, as they best replicate the TV experience. Our Ooyala Video Index Extra “The Rise of the Mid-roll” report looked at mid-roll ad use across nearly 50 global premium publishers and broadcasters from February 2015 to April 2016. During that time, mid-roll ads among this group grew from 19% of all ads to 33%, saw a whopping 90% average ad-completion rate, and ad impressions that more than doubled year-over-year, increasing by an impressive 110% -- in part, at the expense of the pre-roll ad format.
 
The growth of mid-roll ads can be attributed to two things. First, viewers typically watch mid-roll ads through to completion because they’re already invested in the content. In fact, a 2013 study from Akamai and the University of Massachusetts showed pre-roll abandonment is five times more likely than mid-roll abandonment.
 
And secondly, mid-roll ads basically look and feel a whole lot like TV. To a certain degree, people are accustomed to ad breaks within a video, especially with long-form, premium content like episodic series.
 
Content providers -- particularly those looking at longer-form content -- risk losing audiences by just having pre-roll ad strategies, as there’s an upside to letting viewers engage with a video, and invest their time and interest before serving ads. 
 
Look for more savvy companies to quickly jump on board the mid-roll ad express. 
Paula Minardi

Paula is the Head of Content Strategy at Ooyala, where she crafts insights on digital video, production and ad tech trends. She’s held previous positions at Viacom and EMI, with focus areas including video content development, distribution and marketing.

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