For the most part, online video has been much less ad-heavy than television programming. It is this very fact that has likely been a large part of the medium's popularity. Things may be changing, however.
According to Advertising Age, Nielsen is planning on making data available about the viewing of commercials that run in particular shows , whether they are viewed on TV or online. The data would start being available in September, and the publication says it will become the basis for ad negotiations next February.
"But here's the catch: For Nielsen to be able to provide the commercial rating, shows seen online will have to have the same group of commercials that run on TV," says AdAge's Brian Steinberg. "If this system were adopted en masse -- and it's not clear that it would be -- online viewing might be crammed just as full of commercials as the more traditional TV-watching experience."
"Indeed, viewing programs on Hulu, the online video site owned by NBC Universal, News Corp. and Walt Disney, means encountering significantly fewer ads than one would see watching TV. And Disney's ABC.com has met with some success by running ABC shows with just a few ads, often from a single advertiser," he adds. "But many TV executives say these methods don't bring much, if any, profit -- and therefore cannot continue."
Online video has enjoyed tremendous growth over the last several years. In December, 178 million Americans watched 33 billion videos online, according to data from comScore. About 40% of that was at Google sites (like YouTube). The second largest amount of market share went to Hulu, at just 3%.
YouTube isn't necessarily the place people go to watch full episodes of television shows. Hulu is. If videos at sites like Hulu become more ad-heavy, the market share gap could just increase even greater. It could also have an impact on both paid TV show downloads and piracy.