Just two years ago, conventional wisdom held that online videos should not last longer than three minutes because viewers have the attention span of a LOL cat.
Fast forward to this fall, and 30% of total video viewing time on tablet devices are spent on content that's over an hour long, according to a new report from Ooyala, a Silicon Valley company that provides the technical plumbing to power more than 200 million video streams a month on behalf of clients that include Miramax, ESPN, Rolling Stone Magazine and Bloomberg.
Though it counts only views of its clients' videos, the Ooyala report reflects a broader trend toward more long-form videos produced by professional content providers, says Bismarck Lepe, the Mountain View, Calif., company's co-founder and president of products.
"The rise of professional content is driving longer engagement," said Lepe, who was senior product manager at Google for 25 AdSense products. With HBO, Hulu, ESPN and others making long- and mid-form videos available online, there has been an explosion of supply.
On the demand side, the spread of high speed Internet for mobile devices also has helped spur consumption of videos, which can be bandwidth hogs.
"We've found that whenever 3G or 4G comes into a region, we see a tripling of consumption," Lepe says. "This happened in Bogota, Columbia, for example. People were placing their cell phones next to their computers and watching TV all day long."
Tablets, with large screens for mobile viewing, are also driving people to watch videos for longer periods of time. More than 70% of video viewing on tablets in the third quarter this year was for content that lasted more than 10 minutes, Ooyala reports.
Connected game consoles are also a source of online video consumption. ESPN's partnership with Microsoft to broadcast live games on Xbox Live via an Internet connection is an example of professional content producers increasingly turning to "over the top" Internet channels that bypass cable TV services.
"Size actually does matter," Lepe says. "People will engage with video three times longer on a tablet versus a mobile device. For consoles, people will watch five times longer than on mobile devices. Connected TVs and gaming consoles are pretty green field. Pandora on connected TVs, for example, is doing incredibly well."
Another area of growth is live streaming video, which more than doubled in the third quarter compared to the second quarter. It's not just fueled by sports matches, but also concerts, events and interviews, Lepe says.
The takeaway? "Live video + big screens = more viewer engagement and more chances to monetize premium streaming content," the report concludes. "Live ad insertion is a must-have for increasing revenue for live videos and events. Publishers should also look into repackaging live video as on-demand content, which will maximize the number of overall views and ad displays."