‘Prime-time is now personal’: Google’s Mel Silva says YouTube is doubling BVOD’s watch-time

“Primetime is now personal” was the theme of the evening at Sydney’s first YouTube Festival, with Google Australia’s managing director Mel Silva telling a room of marketers that the video sharing platform commands a watch-time double that of broadcast video on demand (BVOD).

Silva cited OzTAM and Nielsen data which said YouTube’s watch-time on TV screens alone was two-times that of all BVOD players across all devices combined (as of May 2019).

Google made plenty of claims about its video platform’s reach at the first YouTube Festival [Click to enlarge]

“Consumers have evolved their traditional prime-time TV into something that’s a lot more individual and it’s more suited to people’s needs, schedules, and curiosities. According to Nielsen data, the majority of Aussies aged between 18 and 39 are either light TV viewers, or watch no free-to-air TV at all. Meanwhile digital video is booming.”

Taking to the stage with a host of YouTube creators, including Aunty Donna who recently starred in a campaign for Samsung, and math teacher Eddie Woo, Silva said the changing face of prime-time meant viewers were no longer happy to watch whatever programming is popular at the time, or whatever is being fed to them by free-to-air providers. Instead, she argued, they want to be able to tailor their experience and watch when it suits them, something they’re able to do on YouTube.

YouTube’s reach according to Nielsen [Click to enlarge]

According to Nielsen data cited by Silva, YouTube’s monthly reach among Australians 18+ is higher than any TV station or video subscription platform. In fact, 83% of Australians in that bracket were reached by YouTube in May 2019. TV is the fastest growing screen for the platform (45% growth in watch-time year-on-year) and viewers are four-times more likely to value content that relates to their personal passions and interests than a show everyone else is watching.

YouTube’s Ashley Chang, culture and trends manager for the platform and former editor in chief of Pedestrian, said storytelling has changed, and niche has become the new mainstream, making YouTube the perfect platform for people to find their ‘personal prime-time’.

“YouTube’s mission is to give everyone a voice and show them the world. But YouTube isn’t a world, it’s a universe. And the beauty of that is for every single person in this room, and for over 2bn people across the globe, your very own universe awaits,” said Chang, citing research that over two thirds of Australians agreed YouTube has content they can’t find elsewhere, and over 70% agreed YouTube has the most diverse content of any video platform in the world, according to Nature Research.

Ash Chang says YouTube has changed the way stories are told

The content on YouTube is beyond what a TV broadcaster could ever dream into existence, or would ever commission, said Chang. Using the example of Australian channel Primitive Technology, which has 9.8m subscribers and up to 65m views on some videos, Chang pointed out that a TV broadcaster would never consider commissioning content that involves a man silently constructing primitive structures. But that’s what Youtube offers – the unique, the weird and the stuff you can’t find elsewhere.

“YouTube isn’t just a place for content that’s seemingly fringe, the mainstream lives here too and it is richer and it is deeper than you could ever imagine. In its final season run, Game of Thrones related content had 1.2bn views across YouTube. Primetime is now personal,” said Chang.

The other focus for YouTube, other than content which can’t be found elsewhere, is a close relationship with sport. Cricket Australia’s Antonia Beggs spoke about the importance of YouTube in raising the profile of women’s cricket and promised exclusive highlights, interviews and behind-the-scenes content from the sport. Cricket Australia’s YouTube page has 3.75m subscribers. Silva also promised more sport in 2020, including highlights from the AFL, Australian Open and EPL, and tailored sporting packages for advertisers.

Cricket Australia is very happy with its work with YouTube, says Beggs

YouTube has also signed an exclusive deal with the ARIAs, which sees the awards night streamed on the platform and a raft of content from past ARIAs. YouTube Originals are coming out from behind the paywall, a move which was announced in 2018 and has now been put into action, with a change of strategy seeing the content supported by ads rather than subscription. There’s also ad opportunities in the platform’s streams of both Coachella and Lollapalooza.

The Youtube masthead will also be coming to TV – putting an advertiser front and centre when a user opens the app on their TV. The masthead will autoplay for viewers on all compatible devices and marketers will be able to purchase it on a cost-per-thousand basis for the globally-available beta.

But it isn’t all great content and new ad offerings – Silva also touched on YouTube’s issues, including the way it advertises on children’s content.

The YouTube Festival which took place in front of 1,500 guests

“Being such a large and open platform, there is a huge responsibility and please let me be really clear on this, living up to that responsibility is our number one priority. We’ve been investing really heavily in both people and technology to make sure that our ecosystem is protected, and most of all, that you as our advertisers are also protected,” said Silva.

The platform is seeking to fix this in four ways, said Silva. Removing content, raising up authoritative voices when people are looking for news reporting, reducing the spread of policy-pushing content and rewarding eligible creators – the four Rs. This also forms the base of the Google Preferred advertiser packages.

But, can YouTube turn ASMR and dance tutorials into big advertising spends? Silva believes it can, calling Youtube “the greatest show on earth”.


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