Photo credit: FilmMagic for YouTube
YouTube’s annual #Brandcast event on Thursday might not technically have been the biggest NewFront presentation so far this year. The capacity crowd of 2700 it drew to the Javits Center North in New York was less than the 2900 that turned out for Hulu’s event on Tuesday at the Theatre at Madison Square Garden (site of last year’s #Brandcast). But the mini set by Sia featuring dancer Maddie Zeigler will likely qualify it as the most flashy.
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki delivered the centerpiece keynote, but the message of the evening was expressed most succinctly by one of its top stars, Lilly Singh (pictured, top), the focus of a YouTube outdoor advertising campaign that has her image gracing bus kiosks around New York City during the NewFronts.
“Gone are the days of testing this platform,” said Singh. “That is so 2013. YouTube is proven and the audience is here. I hope you are, too.”
The message was a softer version of the or-else throwdown delivered by author/YouTuber John Green (“The Fault in Our Stars”) at YouTube’s 2015 #Brandcast event.
“Most people on stage tonight are arguing why you should advertise on YouTube, but I’m going to offer you a vision of what will happen if you don’t,” Green told the crowd in 2015. “If you want to stay in the eyeballs [i.e. television] business, that’s fine,” he added. “I don’t blame you. It is a good business — albeit a shrinking one. But you risk losing relevance with an entire generation of people who look to video not just for distraction but also for engagement and connection.”
Other than Sia, the biggest mainstream celebrity to appear at this year’s Brandcast was Big Bird, who took the stage to introduce Sesame Studios, a new educational channel from the creators of “Sesame Street” featuring new characters, YouTube stars such as Todrick Hall, short-form series and original stories. It will be featured on the YouTube Kids app, which the company announced has surpassed 10 billion views in a year. (Back in August, Sesame Workshop struck a deal with HBO to bring new episodes of “Sesame Street” to the cable network and its collection of multi-platform outlets, HBO GO, HBO On Demand and the SVOD service HBO NOW nine months before they air on PBS.)
The bulk of the evening’s announcements centered on Google Preferred, a program that reserves advertising inventory on the top 5% of YouTube channels for advance buyers.
The big reveal was that NBA inventory had become part of Google Preferred, and the league’s highlights will now surface in Google search and across YouTube. It was also announced that the NBA will soon launch two new VR series on YouTube giving viewers behind-the-scenes looks at basketball’s legends and arenas.
YouTube also announced a new Breakout Videos package for advertisers, which lets them advertise against the fastest-rising videos on the platform, and its upcoming DoubleClick Bid Manager, which will enable upfront buyers to execute their Google Preferred buys programmatically and manage all their video campaigns (including TrueView, Google Preferred and cross-exchanges) in one place.
To further impress the buyers, YouTube rolled out some stats, all of which were sourced in-house via Google or commissioned by the company:
- In the U.S., YouTube reaches more 18 to 49-year-olds than any broadcast or cable TV network on mobile alone. (Source: Google-commissioned Nielsen study U.S., December 2015.)
- The number of hours people spend watching YouTube on TV screens has more than doubled year-over-year. (Source: Google data, global, Q4 2015)
- In the U.S., more 18 to 49-year-olds tune into YouTube during prime time than into the top 10 TV shows combined. (Source: Google-commissioned Nielsen study U.S., Dec. 2015.)
“At a time when TV networks are losing audiences, YouTube is growing in every region and across every screen” Wojcicki boasted to the crowd. “In fact, YouTube is the only video player that works across every single screen — desktop, mobile, tablet, TV and now Virtual Reality headsets.”
Perhaps the biggest message delivered by Wojcicki — although aimed squarely at the brands and advertisers — was one regarding YouTube’s larger cultural impact.
“YouTube gives these creators the freedom to express themselves openly, honestly, authentically,” she said. “It allows a new, diverse set of faces and voices to rise up. They speak their minds, they give their perspectives. And these are perspectives that you just can’t find on TV.”
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