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Why Does YouTube TV Look So Familiar?

April 25th, 2017   ||    by Melanie Brown   ||    No Comments

With the recent announcement of YouTube TV, a streaming version of its super-popular online video destination, Google has decided to move beyond cat videos and into the streaming television game. The offering comes as the latest in a lineup of online streaming TV services that hope to reinvent the current model for linear TV advertising.

Technology’s talking heads and innovators like to periodically proclaim the death of the traditional television model. Indeed, the threats to linear television are manifold: Attention spans are getting shorter, the use of multiple screens at once is becoming more ubiquitous, and the range of content available to consume is growing broader by the day. That said, YouTube’s new service happens to look a lot like linear television—and there’s a reason why.

Not-So-Disruptive

You see, live streams (often of existing shows) are bringing back appointment viewing and feature ads in much the same way as traditional television—currently, live streaming services’ ad insertion essentially mirrors that of linear TV networks.

The two minutes per hour that traditional cable and satellite providers can sell to advertisers on their own will also eventually be available through YouTube, just as it’s already available through other live streaming services like Hulu and Sling TV. According to AdAge, YouTube TV won’t begin by selling that time—advertising will mirror the network’s linear stream—but possible access to it opens the door for YouTube to become a kind of new wave multichannel video-programming distributor.

There’s a reason for the similarities: Linear television still requires the most attention of its viewers, so that’s where the majority of ads tend to be viewed. YouTube’s “Skip Ad” button allows viewers to bypass advertising, causing the ad to lose impressions—but there isn’t an option for that in a live television feed.

MediaPost cited a recent study by ThinkBox in the U.K., pointing out that linear television still receives about 60 percent of video content viewership. Contrast that with the 6.4 percent viewership garnered by YouTube, and you start to understand why the latter might be eager to try out a more traditional linear TV model—which could marry the solid viewership of live TV to more effective digital ad targeting strategies.

The Right Ads, in the Right Places

The promise of YouTube TV is exciting. Dynamic ad insertion has been a mainstay of digital advertising for years, and Google’s video-streaming site has always been primed for highly targeted ads. Data-driven targeting has already created the opportunity for household-specific advertising, something that’s been gaining momentum among video-on-demand streams over the past few years—and a practice that automated TV buying platforms have been honing.

Now, with the ability to stream both live and on-demand content to individual internet addresses (including mobile), YouTube TV is bending the traditional TV model in a way that will eventually create opportunities for one-to-one ad targeting within a live stream.

This kind of addressability has the potential to change the traditional TV landscape—just not yet.

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