TV Upfronts

YouTube Pitches Massive TV Viewership, Ad Targeting at Upfront

The platform's upfront week presentation included big viewership numbers and Billie Eilish

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YouTube asserted its dominance as a video platform that transcends traditional television at its upfront event at Lincoln Center in New York Wednesday, boasting billions of viewers and achieving highly relevant ads for its brand partners.

“We’re redefining what TV looks like, helping creators reach new heights and using AI (artificial intelligence) to expand creativity,” said Neal Mohan, CEO of YouTube. “YouTube views in the living room have grown 130% in the past three years.”

Citing Nielsen figures, Mohan added that YouTube has remained the leader in streaming watch time every month since February 2023. On average, viewers are watching over 1 billion hours of YouTube content on the big screen daily.

Unlike other media companies that simply pitch new TV shows, YouTube announced the launch and expansion of YouTube Select Creator Takeovers, allowing advertisers to buy inventory on channels representing the top 1% of content on the platform. Brands will be able to work with creators of their choice, owning a 100% share of voice on their channel.

The program expands on its pilot launch at the end of 2023, drawing creators such as Travis and Jason Kelce’s New Heights YouTube podcast.

Big viewership on a big screen

In the first half of 2023, over 75% of YouTube Select campaign impressions landed on TV screens in the U.S., per company figures.

Additionally, YouTube is introducing a new Google AI-driven format for connected TV using non-skippable assets across in-stream inventory. The platform also announced branded QR codes for advertisers for an interactive presence on YouTube.

“Our new video reach campaign non-skips powered by Google AI will deliver on your reach and awareness all more efficiently, using your existing non-skippable assets,” said Sean Downey, president, Americas and global partners at Google

The new-look upfronts

In addition to its numbers, YouTube delivered major talent, including Zach King, Cleo Abram, Haley Kalil, National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell and a performance by nine-time Grammy Award winner Billie Eilish featuring Finneas.

The platform also handed the microphone to Pepsi chief marketing officer Todd Kaplan, who highlighted YouTube’s role as Pepsi’s top return-on-investment driver, contributing to 21 consecutive quarters of positive sales growth. In a notable holiday campaign, Pepsi embraced the “dirty soda” trend by blending Pepsi with milk in an ad featuring Lindsay Lohan, which garnered over 50 million views.

Using Google AI, Pepsi successfully engaged with its audience for its Zero Sugar campaign by delivering tailored ads at scale. Kaplan noted that the brand created 70 unique ads with custom voiceovers to effectively connect with its target audience in contextually relevant ways.

“We outperformed our usual ads by over 50%,” he said.

In addition, the platform announced that Google and Scripps Sports reached an agreement for locally televised Women’s National Basketball Association Friday night-games on ION to be shown on YouTube TV in the home and away markets of the teams playing. YouTube TV will be the only pay TV provider carrying both local and national WNBA games this season, starting May 31 and continuing through the regular season.

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