Continuing the swell of online platforms moving into premium video content, YouTube has announced a range of new, exclusive programs, involving various high-profile celebrities, which will elevate the platform as a genuine TV rival.
YouTube's announced this week that they're funding more than 40 original shows in the next year, including new programs from Ellen DeGeneres, Kevin Hart, Demi Lovato and Katy Perry, among others.
The move is a big expansion on their current original programming, a move which, YouTube says, has been inspired by the success of YouTube Red, their paid subscription service (currently available for $9.99 per month).
As per YouTube:
"Starting in 2016, we made the decision to take YouTube to the next level. We began making premium original content for our subscription service, YouTube Red, releasing 30 series and movies in just over a year. And we kept hearing from brands they wanted to be more involved in these premium series."
YouTube's already announced one new brand partnership (Johnson & Johnson will sponsor 'Best.Cover.Ever' produced by Ryan Seacrest), and no doubt many more will follow as the new shows come online, while YouTube will also be looking to ramp up efforts to make it easier for users to view YouTube content on their home TV sets, an option they sweetened recently with the expansion of YouTube TV to include a wider range of existing TV channels.
The addition of new, YouTube exclusive content further solidifies the platform's evolution beyond being just an online provider - soon, you might find yourself switching across to watch YouTube TV the same way you would any other channel, a shift which has significant implications for marketers and their related ad dollars.
This is why Facebook, Twitter, Amazon and YouTube (and to a lesser degree, Snapchat) are all focused on becoming TV content providers. For one, it taps into evolving TV consumption behaviors - as YouTube noted recently, their YouTube Kids app already has more than 8 million weekly viewers, kids to whom YouTube is already a legitimate TV rival, while research has shown that a growing number of Millennials are looking to cut the cord in favor of streaming providers.
In addition to this, providing more TV content also enables these platforms to offer more lucrative, targeted ad products.
For example, a small business right now would struggle to fund a TV ad campaign - even local TV campaigns are expensive. But through more specific ad targeting, like that offered by Facebook, Twitter and Google, more advertisers would be able to not only reduce the costs of TV campaigns, but they'd also be able to better focus them to reach the exact right audience, improving both value and response.
Opening up TV ads in this way could greatly expand their potential, and given TV advertising is currently a $72.01 billion industry in the US alone, it's not hard to see why this has become a focus.
YouTube's latest offering is particularly aggressive in this regard, and likely has traditional TV providers concerned - while YouTube TV is not going to take over straight away, all the trends would suggest that it is going to grow, and with popular content from providers such as these, you can bet they'll be reaching a huge audience of people who are learning how to not only watch on YouTube, but how they can cast YouTube content to their TV, how they can transition across from their normal TV habits.
Often when the discussion around this element comes up, experienced marketers note that TV is still hugely influential, that it'd be foolish to put all your eggs in the digital marketing basket - but the argument for digital actually backs that point completely. Digital platforms are moving into TV because it's so lucrative, not because they're better, not because they have larger reach. Right now, TV is the most influential marketing platform, but moves like this are changing the face of broadcast as we know it. It won't happen overnight, marketing budgets won't - and shouldn't - shift to digital wholesale because of these announcements. But over time, they will. It's worth considering the coming implications of the consumption shift.
For digital marketers, the move into TV-like content presents a range of new opportunities, and each element of the progression needs to be considered, needs to be monitored for audience behaviors. As attention shifts, so too does the value of subsequent reach, and advertisers may find they're money is better spent elsewhere. Worth being aware of this before the fact, rather than after.
Expect all of these providers to be introducing new tools and options to better connect your online and offline viewing behaviors - because while more people are consuming content on their smaller screens, the TV remains a key destination.
YouTube is taking some big strides in this shift. It'll be very interesting to see the audience stats and progressions over time.
Note: Reports have suggested that Facebook will launch their own TV programming slate soon.