YouTube CEO: TV’s Loss of Viewers Is Our Gain

Susan Wojcicki Youtube Power of Women
Pamela Littky for Variety

At Brandcast ad event, video giant boasts of bigger primetime reach in 18-49 demo than top 10 TV shows combined

YouTube keeps flexing its massive muscles in the face of the TV industry.

The Google-owned video powerhouse said it now reaches more viewers on mobile alone in the target demo of 18-49 than any single television network — and in primetime, YouTube delivers more of that audience than the top 10 TV shows combined.

“At a time when TV is losing audiences, YouTube is growing in every region, on every screen,” said YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki at the video giant’s Brandcast event Thursday evening in New York. She added that time spent watching YouTube on TV screens more than doubled year-over-year as of the end of 2015.

Moreover, advertisers on primetime broadcast TV could have reached 56% more consumers in the 18-49 demo by advertising on YouTube as well, she said, citing a Google-commissioned study from comScore Xmedia.

Of course, the data doesn’t exactly show that YouTube is tearing people away from traditional TV. Plus, TV shows themselves are tapping into the power of YouTube: The Brandcast preso featured a clip of CBS “Late Late Show” host James Corden singing its praises, displaying Variety‘s story about the program reaching 1 billion views. And in terms of an ad buy, those aggregate YouTube numbers are not an apples-to-apples comparison to TV ratings for individual shows.

But the metrics certainly underscore a generational shift in media consumption habits: In her presentation, Wojcicki cited a survey conducted for Variety in July 2015 that found among U.S. teens, eight of the top 10 most influential celebs are YouTube stars (up from six of top 10 in 2014). She also said Interpublic Group reached an agreement with the service to shift $250 million in ad spending from TV to YouTube.

To drive home the points, YouTube brought out key partners to make the case to the assembled ad and media execs that its vast reach pays off for advertisers.

Return on investment for online video is 50% higher than linear TV in terms of sales and brand performance, according to a study by Dentsu Aegis Network cited by CEO Nigel Morris. “Our research shows that brands should increase current online video budgets anywhere from two to six times to maximize that ROI on sales,” Morris said.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver, on the Brandcast stage, announced a pact with YouTube to make all NBA footage on its YouTube channel available on the Google Preferred premium ad network. In addition, the NBA will soon launch two new virtual-reality series on YouTube giving fans an immersive look at the their favorite basketball players in action.

Silver was asked by Lilly Singh, the YouTuber known as ||Superwoman|| on the site with 8.6 million subscribers, why YouTube was important to the league. He responded simply: “A billion users globally.”

According to the NBA, 60% of its 700 million views on YouTube in the last year are from outside the U.S. And, Silver said, Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry is now the most popular athlete from any sport on YouTube, with more than 140 million views in the last six months.

And “Sesame Street”‘s Big Bird came out to introduce Sesame Workshop’s Sesame Studios, a new YouTube channel with content created specifically for digital, as Singh announced that the YouTube Kids app has generated more than 10 billion views in a year since its launch. The yellow-feathered fowl asked Singh to follow him on social media at @BigBird: “All birds tweet.”

YouTube star and singer-actor Todrick Hall wrote and produced Sesame Studios new theme song. The new channel will showcase new characters, and partner with top digital stars and creators. Three new videos will be uploaded each week, each 1-5 minutes long, focusing on a range of curricular areas such as literacy. That will build on the main Sesame Street YouTube channel, which has 2 million subscribers and almost 3 billion views to date.

Meanwhile, YouTube said upfront buyers will soon be able to buy Google Preferred campaigns programmatically through DoubleClick Bid Manager, which will allow video campaigns to be managed in one place. Additionally, YouTube advertisers will be able to use their own data to serve targeted spots to audiences within Google Preferred.

Another new initiative from YouTube is Breakout Videos, which packages the more brand-friendly viral sensations while they are still rising.

YouTube held its Brandcast event, part of the two-week Digital Content NewFronts series, at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. A capacity crowd estimated to be over 2,700 filed in to catch the show.

The event featured performances by Andra Day and Silentó, and following the main presentation and dinner (catered by YouTube chefs) singer Sia performed a selection of hits including “Chandelier” and “Elastic Heart” with dancer Maddie Ziegler.

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