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YouTube Takes New Aim at TV Advertising Budgets

Video giant to let marketers pitch spots to cord-cutters, buy inventory in YouTube TV

YouTube wants to siphon off more advertising dollars out of the traditional TV ecosystem.

Google’s video platform is promising Madison Avenue new ways to reach people watching YouTube on TV screens — as well as target YouTube ads to cord-cutters and consumers who don’t watch a lot of traditional TV.

YouTube says connected TVs represent its fastest-growing device category, thanks in part to the growth of YouTube TV, its over-the-top “skinny bundle” pay-TV service launched last year.

While overall mobile accounts for over half of all YouTube videos viewed, users now watch more than 150 million hours daily of YouTube on television screens worldwide. That’s up 50% from 100 million hours per day in the past six months. (One year ago, total viewing on YouTube was around 1 billion hours per day; Google declined to provide an updated figure.)

“We are seeing more YouTube being watched on TV screens, and more TV content being watched on YouTube — it’s the ultimate convergence of video,” said Debbie Weinstein, managing director, YouTube/video global solutions at Google. “Advertisers are saying, ‘What are you building for me to reach YouTube viewers on TV?'”

Here are the three ad programs YouTube is rolling out:

  • “Light TV viewers” targeting: In the next few months, YouTube will introduce a new audience segment in AdWords called “light TV viewers.” These are consumers who, based on Google and YouTube’s metrics, watch most of their TV and video content online — and are much less likely to subscribe to pay TV.
  • YouTube on TV screens: For the first time, advertisers will be able to reach audiences specifically on television screens through AdWords and DoubleClick Bid Manager. That option will join the existing ability to target YouTube viewers on smartphones, tablets, and desktops.
  • YouTube TV ad inventory will be available through Google Preferred: So far, Google hasn’t sold ads for its OTT “virtual pay-TV” service. Starting in the fourth quarter of 2018, inventory on some U.S. cable networks on YouTube TV will be available as an extension to Google Preferred, the premium ad program for the top 5% most popular YouTube channels. Google and YouTube plan to begin selling the inventory starting this spring during the TV upfront seasons.

The “light TV viewers” targeting — which will span ads across all device platforms — is particularly interesting to advertisers who are trying to reach audiences that have become very hard to find on conventional TV, Weinstein said. More than 50% of U.S. consumers aged 18-49 in U.S. are “light” TV viewers (in the bottom one-third of the total TV audience based on minutes viewed), according to Nielsen. However, 90% of that group watches YouTube videos, according to Weinstein.

Meanwhile, Google is looking to dial up the ad monetization on YouTube TV. First launched in April 2017, YouTube TV is now available in 99 of 100 top U.S. designated market areas, reaching some 85% of the nation’s TV households. As you’d expect, most viewing of YouTube TV is on TV, with television screens accounting for more than 70% of the total watch-time.

Starting later this year, YouTube TV ad inventory will be added to Google Preferred. Weinstein noted that YouTube TV ads bought through Google Preferred will be dynamically inserted, letting advertisers target ads based on demographic profiles rather than just showing everyone the same ad as with the majority of traditional TV buys.

This January, YouTube said all videos in Google Preferred will be reviewed by human moderators before they’re eligible for monetization. That came after a series of “brand safety” blowups in the past year, when advertisers discovered spots unexpectedly running against hate speech and other content they didn’t want to be associated with.

According to YouTube, Google Preferred ads reach 43% of millennial cord-cutters, and 44% of “light TV” viewers 18-49 as defined by Nielsen. In addition, YouTube says it’s working with third-party partners like Integral Ad Science (IAS) and OpenSlate to develop post-campaign verification reporting for Google Preferred buys.

YouTube will detail the new ad solutions for marketers this week at the 2018 Digital Content NewFronts in New York City. Google is hosting a breakfast presentation May 1 with Philipp Schindler, Google’s chief business officer, and Neal Mohan, YouTube’s chief product officer. Then on Thursday, May 3, it’s hosting the larger YouTube Brandcast event at Radio City Music Hall.

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