In its early days, YouTube was met with hostility from TV networks. Viacom, for one, alleged in its $1 billion copyright-infringement lawsuit that the video-sharing site was making money from illegal uploads of its most popular content.
Now the seven-year Viacom dispute has been settled out of court, and YouTube is pitching itself to the industry as a very good friend — one that can actually help TV networks lift their audience metrics.
According to Google, video views of TV-related content on YouTube grew 35% in 2013 from the previous year, while time spent viewing TV-related content on the site jumped 65% over that period. Furthermore, Google searches for TV content were up 16% year over year.
Another proof point of the synergy between YouTube and TV, according to Google: The official promotional YouTube channels from cable and broadcast networks — like those for ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” “Saturday Night Live” and Viacom’s Comedy Central — had an average per-channel subscribership increase of 69% over the course of 2013.
All that TV-related activity on YouTube helps pump up ratings, in Google’s analysis. The company looked at Nielsen ratings for 100 network and cable shows last summer and fall, and found a positive correlation with online behavior (on YouTube and Google) for those programs. Specifically, according to its research, Google searches, YouTube searches and YouTube video views show positive .72, .74 and .67 correlations with Nielsen’s “live plus three-day” numbers, respectively.
Google’s goal with the study: to persuade marketers to spend more ad dollars with Google and YouTube to promote their shows. Twitter and Facebook, among others, are similarly trying to hit up entertainment marketers for promo bucks, with their own claims of how social activity helps TV engagement.
“We’ve seen massive growth in research people do before they decide to tune in to a TV show,” said Angie Barrick, head of industry for media and entertainment at Google. “The advertisers have to really compete for the mind-share of viewers.”
Google also touts user-uploaded content related to TV shows as a healthy phenomenon that fuels fan interest and awareness in the tube. In 2013, for every piece of content uploaded by a show’s network on YouTube, there were more than seven community-generated videos related to a show shared on the site. Some shows blew well past that benchmark: HBO’s “Game of Thrones” had 82 community-generated videos per video uploaded by the network and The CW’s “The Vampire Diaries” had 69.
Said Barrick, “The lifecycle of TV viewing is not just about driving tune-in for season 1, episode 1 — it’s about making sure people are up to speed on content year-round.”