Adobe Flash has long been the dominant vehicle for delivering web video to PCs, but with the addition of Apple’s iPad to the list of mobile devices that don’t support the plugin, viewing of HTML5 video is on the rise. Now publishers have even more reason to support the video standard, as new data from MeFeedia shows that viewer engagement levels are higher with HTML5 video than that delivered in Adobe Flash.
MeFeedia is the same firm that reported in the first few days and weeks after the launch of the iPad that users of the Apple tablet watched significantly more video than comparable online viewers on PCs. With more iPads now in the hands of users, MeFeedia has turned its gaze to engagement rates not just for the iPad, but for HTML5 video in general.
And the numbers are pretty astonishing. Viewers that MeFeedia tracked watched about 25 percent more HTML5 video than Flash-based video. Perhaps more importantly, they were 70 percent less likely to abandon an HTML5 video than one delivered in Adobe Flash.
Those findings may be attributable largely to the device itself. Indeed, we’ve long argued that despite the lack of Flash video, the iPad is an ideal device for viewing video, and data from MeFeedia tends to support that theory. According to the firm, the average viewing duration was 2.75 times higher on an iPad than on a PC.
But MeFeedia suggests that other factors may be coming into play. For instance, the user experience of having a native video player available in the browser, without having to load a plugin, reduces the load time necessary to watch a video. MeFeedia also suggests that native HTML5 video players frequently have better performance than Flash on a number of platforms, including mobile devices and Mac- and Linux-based PCs.
Meanwhile, the average viewing time on Android mobile devices are 2.25 times higher than on a PC. As MeFeedia points out, mobile video is good for physically sharing with others, and typically requires more commitment by the user, so they’re more likely to stick around for the video. The iPad’s lack of multitasking capabilities helps prevent users of that device from abandoning video as well.
One explanation that seems to be missing from all this is the current lack of ads running against HTML5 video. Just the presence of a pre-roll ad is enough to make viewers click away, with research from audience measurement and video distribution firm TubeMogul showing that one in six viewers abandon a video before it begins when an ad plays.
Because HTML5 is a nascent web standard, the tools available for tracking and monetizing video have yet to be fully fleshed out. As a result, many of the videos that are being delivered via HTML5 today lack the same kind of 15- and 30-second interruption that comes before watching most premium Flash videos — which could explain the much lower bounce rate. That will change soon, however, as the tools for monetizing HTML5 video start to appear.
Regardless, MeFeedia sees the rate of HTML5 adoption growing due to the vast success of the iPad — with more than 3 million units sold in less than 80 days — as well as the release of the new iPhone 4 and the latest iOS mobile operating system, not to mention more robust support on Android devices for HTML5 video.
Related content on GigaOM Pro: How iAd and the iPad Will Change Mobile Marketing (subscription required)
This article also appeared on BusinessWeek.com