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IBC '19: YouTube Makes Play for Broadcaster Support at Keynote

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For many people under 21, YouTube is TV, but the Google-owned platform pitches itself as a complement to broadcasters and television producers.

“YouTube is an adjacent business to TV,” insisted YouTube’s European chief Cécile Frot-Coutaz in the IBC opening keynote. “It is much more similar, in lots of ways, than people think.”

The former CEO of event TV producer Fremantle started by arguing for all the ways in which Google’s streaming service did things better and differently to traditional TV. This centered around YouTube’s legion of "content creators." In the last year there’s been a 70% increase in the number of users who follow and interact with the platform’s creator channels.

“As a TV producer you can only dream of this kind of real-time participation,” she said. “They are creating content that blurs genres and rewrites content rules. Audiences are consuming it in new ways and are engaging directly with content creators. This unique dialogue creates intimate connections.”

YouTube has dialed back efforts to commission premium content for its ad-free YouTube Premium subscription service, instead renewing its focus on user generated channels.

“We are not in the commissioning business at scale,” Frot-Coutaz said. “We are in the content creator business at scale.”

In the EU alone the number of YouTube channels earning six figures or more has risen by 30% over the last year, she shared.

“They are selling merchandise, managing business, and creating jobs. They are the future of the content industry."

YouTube is installed on 1 billion living room devices globally, she said. In Europe, that includes partnerships with Sky, Liberty Global, and Vodafone.

Her pitch to broadcasters and pay TV operators is to take advantage of the platform’s ability “to reach younger audiences, to increase engagement, and to raise awareness.”

BT Sport for example has shared live coverage of UEFA Champions League finals on YouTube in recent years.

“This summer’s match between Liverpool and Tottenham was the biggest ever live stream for a sport on YouTube. BT gained brand awareness and revenue, and were also able to leverage data to understand more about the audience to potentially sell more subscriptions to BT Sport for next season.”

The Eurovision song contest attracted 5 million live views this year and the show's producers, the EBU, have built a YouTube channel with 3 million subs to date.

“The EBU’s goal is to make Eurovision a year-round engagement rather than a one-off event.”

Media partners like these can distribute content on YouTube to generate incremental revenue, promote specific shows, reach audiences they might struggle to attract via linear TV, or convert them into users of AVOD or SVOD services.

“My advice to broadcasters is to embrace YouTube. The platform’s reach in young demographics is undeniable, so if you want to be relevant you have to understand how to use the platform.”

Frot-Coutaz also identified challenges faced by YouTube. This included the difficulty of audience measurement, although she was able point to the integration of YouTube data into Germany’s ratings currency AGF in which YouTube is measured side-by-side with broadcast.

The company has come under fire on numerous occasions about content on its platform, and a number of major advertisers pulled commercial spending.

“When you create a place designed to welcome many different voices some of those will cross the line,” she said. “It’s a huge area of focus for us. While this problem content represents a fraction of 1% of the total content on YouTube we are investing in various ways to remove the content that violates policies as quick as possible and to raise the profile of good content.

“Machine learning is starting to work really, really well,” she added. “Perfection will never exist, because it is an open platform. However, I think we can say with real confidence that we are seeing the progress that we can make through these systems and processes.”

Photo credit: Adrian Pennington

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