TV plans YouTube counteroffensive

TV plans YouTube counteroffensive

TV broadcasters will emerge unscathed from the onslaught of digital video viewing, according to Nielsen.

The media research giant is signalling that US TV networks are preparing a major counteroffensive on Google’s YouTube and others, backed by the expansion of the TV ratings system into online video.

Just as Hollywood studios and media groups pour into the online video sector, buying up networks which aggregate hundreds of millions of viewers on YouTube channels, Nielsen’s global head of digital Megan Clarken said a major shift would start in 2015.

Next year, US TV networks will stream all their broadcast feeds both live and on-demand to mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets and charge advertisers handsomely for the effort.

“You will see the likes of ESPN streaming sport live onto a digital device at the same time as the big screen and you’ll see the same advertising load too,” Ms Clarken said.

“Until now they’ve never been able to get TV ratings credit for that. 2015 will be the year you really start to see the broadcasters take advantage of that digital video environment.

“Linear TV viewing is stable but we’re going to see more video consumed, not necessarily on the TV itself. TV broadcasters are still the custodians of the highest quality content on the planet and they’re going to make sure that content is available to those audiences anywhere, anytime.

“It’s all of those things we used to talk about 10 years ago. TV viewing is changing but TV is not going away any time soon.

“In fact next year, because of a number of factors, measurement being one of them, the broadcasters have got this whole new channel available to them.”

On September 29, Nielsen in the US flicked the switch on its new cross-channel TV ratings service, allowing broadcasters and “digital first” media companies such as YouTube, Facebook, Amazon and AOL to define an online video viewer in the classic TV ratings system.

This system still drives the placement of $70 billion in US TV advertising budgets. In Australia the TV ad market is worth about $4 billion.

The trigger for the predicted broadcaster stampede to mobile devices – Ms Clarken said Australian networks would follow their US counterparts – is the preparedness of Facebook to make its massive user base available to match anonymised gender and age information with individual mobile devices, which can then be traced across the internet for the video they are streaming.

Ms Clarken said this development “suddenly motivates” broadcasters to expand their distribution beyond the TV set because they can sell their online audiences via the higher-advertising margins which traditional TV ratings garner.

But Ms Clarken did not discount the aggressive ambitions of the emerging online video players to also utilise the expanded TV ratings system for their digital video networks. The online industry has all but surrendered its long fight against TV ratings measurement and embraced it to win over traditional TV advertising budgets.

“The competition is stepping up but it’s an opportunity for both sides, the broadcasters and the digital-first guys,” she said. “And I don’t think they’ll be taking from one another. It’s new money. If anything, if you look at the US, there is a decline in display [banner] advertising.”

Ms Clarken said while the time people spend watching linear TV was stable, video viewing on mobile devices was growing fast because people were using it as a time filler.

“It’s new hours, additional hours,” she said. “Rather than staring out the back of a taxi or train, you watch something. Broadcasters are going to make sure their content is available to those audiences anywhere, anytime.”

Ms Clarken said broadcasters would not just push a linear broadcast schedule to mobile devices – viewers could also select TV content on-demand.

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