As YouTube viewing on the big screen has grown over the past few years, the company has spotted an opportunity to compete for traditional TV budgets. And YouTube has this week continued that push with a couple of updates to its CTV ad offering, which look designed to further foster a more traditional TV-like experience.
In a blog post Romana Pawar, director of product management at YouTube ads, said that the company is moving to introduce fewer, longer ad breaks in CTV viewing. Pawar said this is based on consumer research, which found that 79 percent of viewers would prefer video ads that are grouped together instead of distributed throughout a video. But the change also represents a move to a more traditional TV ad break model, giving YouTube’s CTV inventory more of a TV feel from an advertiser’s point of view.
YouTube has also brought Feed ads, which appear within feeds of recommended videos, onto CTV. The platform says the purpose is to let viewers see and interact with ads during streaming sessions, in a way which doesn’t interrupt their viewing.
And YouTube will also begin telling users the overall length of each ad break, rather than how many ads are left to play within a pod. This could have disadvantages from an advertiser’s point of view – since viewers will know whether they’ve got time to grab a drink from the fridge, for example. But again this is more in line with a traditional TV experience, where viewers generally have a sense of how long an ad break is likely to be.
The new TV
Some in the industry have been sceptical of YouTube’s efforts to slot itself in the TV world. But the lines between YouTube and other CTV providers competing for TV money (including those owned by broadcasters) do seem to be becoming increasingly blurred.
In terms of pure viewing, YouTube is outperforming most other providers. In the US, it is the most watched CTV service amongst viewers, accounting for 9.2 percent of all TV screen usage in a recent Nielsen report. The style of viewing is akin to traditional TV, with viewers generally watching long form content. Sixty-five percent of all YouTube CTV viewing time in the US is on content 21 minutes or longer.
YouTube is even picking up TV-like content, most notably with the NFL Sunday Ticket, which it has heavily advertised.
And while some will debate whether YouTube’s content could ever be considered premium, stats suggest that buyers are increasingly open minded. Research released by the IAB earlier this year found that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of TV and video buyers believe that some creator-driven video (i.e, user-generated video) can be considered premium. And two-third say they measure UGC buys in the same way that they measure Hollywood-produced video.
In fact the biggest obstacle to YouTube’s TV success may be YouTube itself. A report from the FT earlier this week claimed that YouTube’s heavy pushing of Shorts, its TikTok competitor, is cannibalising other parts of YouTube’s business. The FT cited YouTube staff, who said that creators are making less long-form content. Some of those staff worry that long-form content is “dying out”, as Shorts draws audiences away from long-form content, according to the report.
Simultaneously competing with TikTok for dominance of ultra-short form content, while also mounting a charge into the TV world, will be a tricky balancing act.