Yesterday YouTube TV raised its monthly rate by 30% from $50 to $65. It’s the fourth rate hike in just the past 2 years, as YouTube TV moved from its introductory rate of $35 to $40 to $50 to the new $65 per month. As recently as March, 2018 it was still possible to sign up for $35 per month and be grandfathered into that rate for a short period.
I’ve been a mostly satisfied YouTube TV subscriber since the early days, and of course, the rate increases have been painful to absorb. The fundamentals of YouTube TV as a pay-TV alternative that were appealing from day one have changed little - strong cross-platform access, unlimited DVR, 6 concurrent users, etc. What has changed is the growth in number of TV networks carried; indeed yesterday’s rate hike was tied to the launch of a group of ViacomCBS networks, just as the previous hike was tied to the addition of Discovery networks.
As part of the IAB NewFronts, YouTube held its reimagined Brandcast virtual event today, emphasizing its TV viewership, incremental reach and originals as part of a broader pitch for ad buyers’ budgets. Brandcast attendees were able to customize their selection of videos by content genre and then learn from YouTube executives and talent about specific programming and monetization initiatives.
As it has done in the past, YouTube highlighted how the platform is used by viewers to create personalized experiences, helping advertisers better connect with passionate viewers on TVs. YouTube cited Comscore research that it had the largest ad-supported reach among cord-cutters and cord-never on connected TVs and the highest viewing hours among AVOD services. YouTube said it reached 77% of AVOD households in March and accounted for 41% of all AVOD watch time in March in the U.S. YouTube cited Nielsen research that it reached more 18-49 year-olds in March than all linear TV networks combined.
YouTube launched “YouTube Select,” replacing and expanding its prior Google Preferred solution, which was a curated selection of top YouTube channels. In a blog post, Vishal Sharma, VP, Product Management for YouTube Ads said in a blog post that YouTube Select will also include “emerging lineups” which are “up and coming or niche channels” in categories like beauty and fashion, entertainment, technology, sport and other.
With the new program, YouTube is expanding the quantity of content it is curating and ensuring as brand safe, further targeting connected TV viewers. YouTube said it will give advertisers the option to “only serve ads on videos that have been machine classified and human-verified.” Brand safety is a critical consideration for traditional TV ad buyers who have been a target audience for Google Preferred.
As stay at home guidelines remain in place, it seems like more and more free TV and video are being made available, spanning the short and long ends of the tail (meaning super-premium through user-generated) - and everything in between. Not only does this create more choices for viewers, which will be welcomed, it also means more competition for subscription video services which were already vulnerable to belt-tightening. And for free TV/video that is ad-supported, it means more inventory and choices for advertisers.
Here’s what’s caught my eye just in the past week:
Pixability has announced BrandTrack, a new competitive intelligence tool that helps advertisers optimize their presence on YouTube. BrandTrack provides detailed information on competitors within 25 different industries, showing metrics on channel growth, estimated ad spending, brand sentiment, top/trending videos, best practices at the video-specific level and more. Pixability is pulling the data directly from YouTube’s API and then applying its proprietary technology and UI/visualization to give advertisers easily digestible insights.
BrandTrack grew out of a professional service Pixability has been offering clients for a while. But, recognizing that advertisers need to be able to flexibly adjust their YouTube content/spending to maintain a competitive edge, the service has been productized into a SaaS offering available standalone ($2K-$10K per month, based on seats) or as part of the PixabilityONE platform.
I’m pleased to present the 500th(!) edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
On today’s podcast, Colin is still mopping up his tears from the 49ers’ heartbreaker last Sunday night, but is being a good sport about the loss. He quickly recaps the game’s streaming audience and shares his insights.
This week’s main topics are Disney+ and YouTube. Coincidentally, this week we all got a first look at both of their performances, in Disney’s and Alphabet’s earnings reports, respectively. The headline from Disney+ was clearly the 28.6 million subscribers reported after just 84 days after launching - a noteworthy accomplishment by any standard. We discuss how sticky those subs are (i.e. what will the churn rate be?) and what Disney+ will need to do from here to keep up momentum.
Then we shift to YouTube; we’re both a little surprised that YouTube TV only has 2 million subscribers given how much advertising around marquee sports it has done (by comparison, Hulu Live had 3.2 million at the end of 2019). Nevertheless we are both quite bullish about YouTube going forward, particularly if Google decides to hold off price increases for some time and cord-cutting continues to accelerate. I believe the company as a whole could crack $25 billion in revenue in 2020.
(Apologies - Colin’s audio quality isn’t very good this week, we’re working to fix for future podcasts.)
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Finally, finally, finally, Google provided some transparency about YouTube’s financial condition, in its Q4 ’19 and full year 2019 earnings report yesterday. YouTube’s financials have been treated as a state secret by Google since the beginning of time, with only high level usage information periodically shared.
Even yesterday’s reveal was only for YT’s advertising revenue, which came in at $4.7 billion for Q4 ’19 and $15.1 billion for the year. YT’s subscription revenues - which consist of YT Music, YT Premium includes YT Music) and YT TV (its virtual pay-TV service) - were buried in “Google other revenue.” On the earnings call, CEO Sundar Pichai said all YT subscriptions had a $3 billion annual run rate at the end of 2019.
Using some conservative assumptions and relatively quick math, it’s clear that YT’s total revenue could exceed $25 billion in 2020. As I also detail below, YT has to be considered among the best acquisitions in corporate America’s history. For Google, only the acquisition of Android (for the measly price of $50 million) could be considered more successful.
Here are my calculations:
Frustrated Chromecast and Fire TV users can now breathe a sigh of relief: parent companies Google and Amazon have announced that apps for YouTube and Prime Video are officially available the other company’s CTV devices. That means Prime Video can be cast once again using Chromecast and is on Android TV devices. And YouTube’s app is available on Fire TV Stick (2nd gen), Fire TV Stick 4K, Fire TV Cube, Fire TV Stick Basic Edition, and Fire TV smart TVs (e.g. Toshiba, Insignia, Element, Westinghouse).
I’m pleased to present the 470th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
This week we start with Colin sharing his views on CuriosityStream’s market opportunity. Colin had several takeaways after listening to a podcast with company founder John Hendricks describing the addressable universe streaming is creating and how CuriosityStream is capitalizing. We also discuss challenges CuriosityStream and other DTC streaming services face.
Speaking of challenges, we then shift to focus on YouTube’s latest policies meant to combat hate and conspiracy speech, plus predatory behavior towards kids on its platform. Colin and I agree YouTube is engaged in an ongoing game of whack-a-mole trying to control what content runs on its platform, while also trying to respect freedom of speech. It’s an extremely hard balance to achieve. Now regulators around the world are stepping up their pressure to address the situation.
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I’m pleased to present the 467th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
This week the major TV networks presented to advertisers in the annual upfronts ritual. Among the key benefits being conveyed was brand safety; unlike digital platforms, TV networks are controlled and curated so only premium content is carried. Despite networks’ declining linear audiences, in the current chaotic environment, there’s reassurance in brand safety.
With YouTube, Facebook and others playing whack-a-mole to regularly tamp down controversial videos, advertisers face a dilemma of taking risks with digital platforms to target coveted younger audiences, or stay safe with network TV. For example, a recent Reuters article cited research that of 240 brands, 46% reduced their YouTube spending year over year, instead shifting some spending to networks' online properties. Colin and I discuss the complexities.
(Note: Brand safety will be a critical topic at the 9th annual VideoNuze Video Advertising Summit coming up on May 29th in NYC. Register now!)
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I’m pleased to present the 464th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
First up this week Colin walks us through Nielsen and YouTube data he’s been analyzing that shows how 50-64 year olds are watching OTT video at a pretty significant level. According to his analysis, this group’s viewing could be at least 60% of the level of 18-34 year olds, which have been the main focus of many observers’ attention.
This adoption ties to our second topic which the Q1 ’19 loss of around 83K subscribers by DirecTV Now. Virtual pay-TV operators have a big opportunity to drive OTT viewing on connected TV devices, and Colin and I surmise these are taking up a bigger share of 50-64 year olds’ viewing which is more focused on long-form entertainment and sports. However the DirecTV Now loss shows that different players are benefiting differently from this shift.
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I’m pleased to present the 456th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
On this week’s podcast we cover 3 different topics. First, AT&T had a busy week - its deal for Time Warner was finally cleared after the DOJ’s appeal was rejected, both HBO CEO Richard Plepler and Turner president David Levy resigned, and a Variety report has Disney interested in buying AT&T’s 10% stake in Hulu. Colin and I discuss all of these and their implications.
Next, Colin weighs in on the new collaboration between the BBC and ITV to launch a version of BritBox in the U.K. and why it matters. Finally, another week, another YouTube content malefactor(s), leading to an advertiser pullback. We discuss how YouTube is playing whack-a-mole but that at the end of the day advertisers need YouTube and are unlikely to leave altogether.
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I’m pleased to present the 454th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
Colin’s site published a provocative piece this week focused on whether YouTube is doing as much as it should for its vast network of content creators. In our first segment this week we debate this question. Colin asserts YouTube isn’t, while I counter it’s likely doing as much as it feels it needs to, and especially focuses on its biggest creators. We do agree that with YouTube’s audience still growing and advertisers returning, the question may be moot anyway.
We then dig into this week’s deal by Brightcove to acquire Ooyala’s OVP business, joining two traditional competitors. For me the deal illustrates the rising bar video platforms must meet for both publishers and users, driven by in-house technology found in Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube and others and the need for greater scale. From a strictly financial standpoint, Brightcove’s move seems savvy and opportunistic.
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Yesterday’s announcement by Roku, that it would begin offering SVOD and ad-free premium cable TV networks (what Roku calls “Premium Subscriptions”) within The Roku Channel, is the latest sign that subscription video services are turning to bigger third party platforms to add and retain paying subscribers. Despite all the industry excitement over direct-to-consumer (“DTC”) business models, third party distribution remains critical.
Roku’s move evokes what Amazon has been doing with its Amazon Channels program for just over 3 years, which I've been bullish on from the beginning. Prime subscribers are able to choose from dozens of different small and large SVOD services and premium cable TV networks and have the fees billed directly to their credit card on file with Amazon. Free trials are commonplace and the content is viewed seamlessly within the Prime Video app on multiple devices.
I’m pleased to present the 446th edition of the VideoNuze podcast, with my weekly partner Colin Dixon of nScreenMedia.
YouTube has long been the 800-pound gorilla of online video advertising; now it is positioning itself for further gains in premium video. On this week’s podcast, Colin and I discuss a couple of the highlights: YouTube’s recent decision to add over 100 movies for free, ad-supported viewing and to shift its originals strategy from an SVOD model (YouTube Premium) to ad-supported.
As we explore, there is another interesting angle here as well, which is the interplay between Roku and YouTube. As I wrote earlier this week, The Roku Channel’s success was no doubt an influence on YouTube’s decision to launch free movies. As well, Roku’s huge footprint of connected TVs (as well as others like Chromecast, etc.) has created a living room environment perfect for longer viewing times and a more TV-like experience that YouTube is capitalizing on.
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Some great reporting from Ad Age over the past couple weeks reveals how Amazon and Google are ramping up in premium video advertising. Given the size and respective positioning of both companies, their initiatives are worth paying close attention to.
First, on Google, Ad Age reported that YouTube has begun to offer feature length movies like “The Terminator,” “Rocky” and “Legally Blonde” for free and with ad support (note all are also available on The Roku Channel). They’re part of around 100 movies YouTube has collected in a bid to further boost YouTube viewership and give advertisers more access to premium, brand safe content.
YouTube has thoroughly dominated free, ad-supported online video practically since its launch over 13 years ago. Over the years there have been lots of competitors who have come and gone, unable to compete with the sheer volume of traffic and monetization potential that YouTube offered independent content creators.
But a new battle is escalating for the attention of YouTube’s most important creators. Twitch, the e-gaming streaming site Amazon acquired 4 years ago for nearly a billion dollars, is making aggressive offers to YouTube’s top creators to help broaden Twitch’s appeal. Per a Bloomberg article yesterday, and others that have preceded it, Twitch is offering creators minimum guarantees that can run to several million dollars per year, plus shares of ad and subscription revenues.
Another sign of connected TVs’ ascendance: in a blog post on Friday, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said that its users are now watching an average of over 180 million hours of YouTube video per day on TV screens. To put that in perspective, given the 1.9 billion logged-in users YouTube says it has per month, it would mean an average of almost 11 minutes per day per user watching YouTube on TV.
No doubt that’s far less that the average Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime Video subscriber spends watching those services on TV. And it also pales in comparison to the over 50% of YouTube consumption on mobile devices the company has touted for several years now.
One of the biggest challenges all ad-supported video providers face these days is how to optimally balance the viewer’s and the advertiser’s experiences. Given the range of non-ad-supported outlets (e.g. Netflix, Amazon, etc.), viewers are getting more accustomed to the pleasure of uninterrupted consumption. Meanwhile, advertisers are more challenged than ever to have their messages seen and their spending optimized.
There’s probably no better example of how to achieve the balance than YouTube’s TrueView ad format, which all of us have no doubt encountered and acted on, since its launch 6 years ago. With the choice to skip the ad after 5 seconds of countdown, viewers feel like they’re in control. And because advertisers don’t pay unless a minimum of 30 seconds of the ad has been watched, the TrueView format is highly cost-effective.
Comcast announced this morning that YouTube has been launched on its X1 set-top boxes, further supporting Comcast’s strategy of becoming an “aggregator of aggregators.” Comcast integrated Netflix into X1 last November, the first major milestone of wrapping popular online video services into X1, which vastly simplifies viewers’ experiences.
Billions of YouTube videos will now be available to X1 subscribers, equally accessible as Comcast’s own live, on-demand and DVR programming as well as online sources like Netflix. YouTube video will also be filtered into the Xfinity On Demand menu, and be available via the X1 voice remote. X1 users can search YouTube by voice or text by topic (beauty, cooking, music, etc.), by specific names of talent, shows and by live-streams.