YouTube recently announced a new set of ad types to help marketers reach users where they’re seeing increased activity – including a ‘TV Screens’ targeting option and a new segment in AdWords to target TV viewers.
And while those are significant, what was of more interest within the announcement was this:
“In the past few years, we witnessed mobile viewership exceed desktop, marking the first major shift in how people interacted with YouTube. Now, in 2018, viewers are returning to that original, purpose-built device for video viewing – the television set. At YouTube we’ve brought people back to the big screen by building a rich YouTube experience for set-top boxes, gaming consoles, streaming devices and smart TVs of all stripes. And now TV screens are our fastest growing screen counting over 150 million hours of watch time per day.”
That’s right, people viewing YouTube content on their home TV set is now the fastest growing usage segment.
Netflix recently reported similar, noting that 70% of its streams end up on connected TVs instead of phones, tablets or PCs. And that trend is significant – as noted by analyst Rich Greenfield:
While much of the focus in recent times has been on rising mobile use, the increase in video consumption has lead to a resurgence in TV viewing, with newer platforms gaining traction fast.
That’s important, because if people are consuming more digital TV content on home TV sets, that opens up a range of new TV advertising opportunities, with advanced targeting and segmentation, making them both more affordable and more responsive.
But it also means that Facebook and Twitter, with their own TV ambitions, are likely falling behind, and will continue to do so till they offer more viable connected TV experiences.
To be fair, both Facebook and Twitter do have TV-connection options. Facebook, which is looking to push its ‘Watch’ video platform, has been working on its TV app for some time, though it doesn’t have a direct TV platform – its still, essentially, Facebook on your TV set, which is not as well-developed as the YouTube of Netflix TV apps. Twitter, which recently showcased 30 new video deals at its Newfronts event, has been working to build a TV app which also integrates tweets – which is a good idea in theory, but again, they haven’t yet provided a dedicated TV viewing option.
What makes Netflix so appealing is that it’s entirely focused on the content. There are no additional distractions, no social connections – you pick the movie or show you want to watch and go. For Facebook and Twitter to compete, that will likely be what they need to provide also, an entirely, singular-focused video app which enables users to quickly, and easily, switch across to Twitter or Facebook content, like they would any other TV channel.
Facebook may be seeking to do this through its rumored smart home device, which has been delayed till later in the year (likely due to user concerns about data misuse, and fears such a device might be listening in), while Twitter hasn’t taken that next step yet. You can bet both will make moves on this front, and when they do, that will be significant.
But even then, Netflix is currently winning out. And it’ll take a lot of work to catch them.
Indeed, YouTube’s global head of content Susan Daniels recently admitted that YouTube is nowhere near competing with Netflix on original content, the real driver of platform adoption.
“I don’t think you can compete with Netflix at this point, they’re too far ahead. But I do think, in time, we can compete with Hulu and Amazon and certainly Apple, and hopefully, you’ll see us do that.”
YouTube's been investing in original content for its YouTube Red subscriber channel, and those programs are bringing in viewers. A year after launch, YouTube Red had more than 1.5 million users, with a million more on free trials, so there’s clearly interest in the content, and newer arrangements like the one YouTube has with comedian Kevin Hart will definitely help grow the channel.
Of course, Netflix’s business model differs from what social platforms have generally adopted, relying on subscriptions – which YouTube Red does also. But YouTube can also make money from ads served on TV-like content, giving them more avenues for monetization. Even without equivalent subscriber numbers, there are additional opportunities for these platforms.
Essentially, what the trends show is that is Facebook and Twitter really want to tap into TV ad dollars, they need to improve their TV-connected offerings. If they can do that, then there’s a heap of opportunity in targeted ads, using their advanced audience segmentation and insights to deliver more relevant content.
In addition to this, both platforms may have to invest even more into programming. Facebook’s been looking to pare back its investment, but with YouTube ramping up its content deals, and Netflix getting bigger, the landscape is quickly getting crowded. Facebook and Twitter need great content to bring viewers across – even focusing on niche markets will likely require more investment.
If they can do this, if these platforms are able to connect with the trend of increased video viewing on TV, and provide more compelling options to draw an audience, the marketing benefits could be significant. But the changes in user behavior are evolving fast, and both Facebook and Twitter will need to act quickly to stay in touch.