Facebook boards the mid-roll ad train

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 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.