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YouTube BrandCast a Pep Rally for Advertisers

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It's NewFront week in New York City, and tonight was Google and YouTube's turn to put on a show. With YouTube the dominant player in the online video industry, expectations were as vast as the sizeable hall that YouTube rented for the occasion. Typically, sites use newfronts to entice advertisers with upcoming original shows. But YouTube got big on content created by other people, and original content isn't its strong suit. Perhaps that's why the YouTube BrandCast felt more like a pep rally, one designed to get advertisers enthused over the site's engagement and reach. YouTube now has over 1 billion viewers, the audience was told repeatedly. And yet, it felt like YouTube had nothing much to say.

"The future is already here," enthused Google's executive chairman Eric Schmidt at the start of the presentation. Video is bringing people together, he stated, offering a dewy-eyed tribute to video's ability to change and unite the world.

“There’s an insatiable appetite for online video, and that appetite is our opportunity," said Robert Kyncl, YouTube's global head of content. Rather than talking about how YouTube can satisfy that appetite, he offered stats (people watched YouTube 50 percent more often in 2012 than they did in 2011), demographics (YouTube reaches more 18- to 34-year-olds in the U.S. than any cable network, according to Nielsen), and appeals to advertisers ("Successful brands are making YouTube the heartbeat of their online campaigns"). It was reminiscent of the enthusiastic yet substance-free keynote address Kyncl gave at CES in 2012. Whatever plans YouTube has for the future, it's keeping them to itself.

The biggest news of the night came from Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks, who joined Brian Robbins, CEO of Awesomeness TV (a YouTube-based, teen-oriented network) to announce that DreamWorks acquired Awesomeness TV earlier in the day (for $33 million). In a post-BrandCast press conference, Katzenerg said that he would let Robbins continue to do what he's been doing, but offered the possibility of collaborations with DreamWorks properties in the future.

Surprisingly, YouTube's efforts in developing funded channels weren't mentioned. It read as a silent admission that they haven't been doing was well as the company would like. While presenters hyped YouTube's abilities as an advertising platform, and Margo Georgiadis, Google's president for the Americas, talked about the company's ability to deliver handpicked brand-safe media packages, YouTube never presented itself as being able to develop audience-pleasing content.

During the two-hour presentation, the audience heard from Felicia Day, Shira Lazar, and Ryan Higa. Snoop Lion (fka Snoop Dogg) and Macklemore each performed two songs.

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