We know YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter dominate the social video ecosystem, attracting the lion’s share of views and ad dollars. In 2015, Google’s ad revenue grew by 22%, Facebook’s ad revenue increased by 67%, and together, they accounted for the vast majority of growth in the digital ad industry1.
However, there are several growing premium video platforms that specialize in delivering over-the-top (OTT) video content that shouldn’t be ignored. These platforms are typically seen as a replacement to cable or satellite TV, bringing premium digital content to mobile screens, or to the living room via connected TVs. More than half of the US population is expected to view content on a connected TV in 20162, typically through popular set-top boxes or streaming sticks, like Rokus or Chromecasts. OTT services are not one-size-fits-all, however — there are hundreds of streaming services that cater to individual niches, including live event programming, video on demand, and linear television.
As OTT gains steam and the digital video ecosystem becomes even more complex, advertisers will need to understand the distinctions of each platform, to make the right selections to reach the audiences that matter most. Here’s an overview of the major players in the OTT video ecosystem:


Launched in 2008, Hulu’s subscription video streaming service provides more than 12M users access to new and classic TV shows in the U.S. Hulu has two tiers of service: a standard monthly subscription, and a premium ad-free version. Hulu’s users are increasingly watching video in the living room, with connected TVs accounting for 70% of its views3. Advertisers can choose from a variety of non-skippable ad products, from short-form 7 second video ads, to 60 second spots, and they’ve proved popular, with much of its ad inventory selling out. Hulu is aggressively positioning itself as a destination for live television programming — considering that it’s jointly owned by NBCUniversal, 21st Century Fox, and Disney, it’s in a unique position to succeed.

Amazon Video

Amazon Video was launched in 2006 as an add-on to the popular Amazon Prime service, and began producing original content in 2014. Now, viewers can purchase Amazon Video as a stand-alone service, which has helped increase its audience to 76.2M4. Viewers without a subscription to Prime or the stand-alone video service can still view ad-supported programming from major television networks. Recently, Amazon rolled out its service globally, and scored a major victory with its release of “The Grand Tour” — while Amazon hasn’t released official numbers, it claims millions of subscribers streamed the premiere episode during its opening weekend5. Backed by Amazon’s impressive resources, and the built-in subscriber base of Prime users, Amazon Video is the fastest-growing streaming service, a trend that is likely to continue in 2017. Similarly, Amazon’s Fire TV device is an increasingly popular solution for consumers looking to stream a variety of content in the living room — this year, Fire TV increased its share of connected TV users in the U.S. from 9.4% to 15.4%6.


Verizon’s go90 platform is aimed at a young, mobile audience. Rolled out in late 2015, go90 features content from traditional networks like Comedy Central, as well as original, teen-oriented content from MCNs like AwesomenessTV. The service is free to use, and advertisers can buy 15 second ads between short-form content. While the nascent platform doesn’t disclose its audience size, some advertisers are frustrated with its modest viewership7. However, if Verizon’s go90 is able to grow its audience, the targeting technology supplied by AOL and Yahoo (also owned by Verizon) could make it a video advertising powerhouse.


Watchable, launched in 2015 by Comcast, was initially aimed to distribute video content produced by publishers like Vice and Buzzfeed. In mid-2016, Watchable rolled out its first three original series, produced by several of its content partners. Watchable’s content is also available to Comcast subscribers via set-top box; despite this added reach, Comcast has not yet disclosed the size of Watchable’s audience.

(Apple) TV

Apple is also dipping a toe into the streaming video ecosystem — in October 2016, the tech giant announced a dedicated OTT app for Apple TV devices, simply called “TV.” The app unites content from subscription services, live television programming, and content from iTunes. Content is synced between devices, so users can pick up where they left off on their mobile device if they need to leave the house. While Apple’s video streaming service is young, it promises a wide reach among its 20.5 million users8 in the U.S.

The Rise of OTT Devices

Beyond Apple TVs, consumers have been adopting OTT devices en masse, specifically streaming sticks like Chromecast, and set-top boxes like Roku. The inexpensive Chromecast dominates the market for OTT devices, with 30.6M users in the U.S., or about 16.8% of the connected TV market. Chromecasts allow users to mirror video from their phones to their TVs, typically YouTube or other premium video content. Rokus account for 16.4% of the connected TV user base9; like Amazon Fire TVs, this set-top box allows users to access a multitude of premium video platforms.
Viewers — particularly millennials — are increasingly turning away from linear TV (or never subscribing in the first place), so even TV-loyal advertisers should recognize they can increasingly reach their target audience at scale — and with precision — by embracing social video platforms and OTT in tandem.

1. Recode. “Google and Facebook are booming.” Nov. 2, 2016.?
2. eMarketer. “US Connected TV Usage: Digital Content Gives the ‘First Screen’ New Life.” November 12, 2015. ?
3. Adweek. “Hulu Is Targeting Living Room Viewers With New Interactive Advertising Deals.” May 4, 2016. ?
4. eMarketer. “Amazon Prime Growing Fastest Among Streaming Video Services.” October 24, 2016. ?
5. Amazon. “Amazon Original The Grand Tour Breaks Viewership Records on Prime Video” November 22, 2016.?
6. eMarketer. “Amazon Prime Growing Fastest Among Streaming Video Services.” October 24, 2016.?
7. Wall Street Journal. “Advertisers Say Verizon’s go90 Rollout Has Been Rocky.” August 2, 2016. ?
8. eMarketer. “Amazon Prime Growing Fastest Among Streaming Video Services.” October 24, 2016.[Text of footnote 4]?
9. eMarketer. “Amazon Prime Growing Fastest Among Streaming Video Services.” October 24, 2016. ?