Not So Fast, YouTube TV

As a millennial and a marketer, I’m still not on the cord-cutting bandwagon.

by Kylie Wu

I have a small confession…among the growing pack of millennial cord-cutters who have given up ‘traditional TV’ for cross-platform entertainment content, I am one of a dying breed who still pays for cable.

From the ease of browsing, to getting my weekly fix of The Voice without having to wait an extra day to watch, I just haven’t felt the push to give up on cable.

This may all be changing now that YouTube TV is officially a thing. Announced a few weeks ago, it’s the first live streaming TV offering that actually piqued my interest because, well, it’s YouTube.

Sling TV, Playstation Vue and DirecTV Now all have very comparable offerings to YouTube TV, and depending on your network preferences, may even be better.

But, with users now watching more than 1 billion hours of YouTube per day, the built-in power and influence behind the Google brand helps make YouTube TV a very intriguing offering that could separate it from the rest of the pack.

For YouTube, this move makes tons of sense. As viewing preferences have changed in today’s modern media culture, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki noted that this provides a way for people to watch TV content “wherever they want, on any screen, on their terms.” This is particularly important in continuing the value of YouTube with younger audiences, who spend a lot of their time on mobile devices.

And of course, this also gives marketers another potential channel to allocate their ad dollars to YouTube.

Before I become a cord-cutter, or proclaim that we finally have the answer to declining TV viewership advertising woes, here are five questions YouTube will need to answer before I’m sold on their live TV offering:

  1. What will the ad products be?

From an advertising perspective, part of my initial excitement around YouTube TV stemmed from the idea that the service could allow brands to leverage the enormous amount of consumer data Google has available.

However, in the immediate time frame, it seems that YouTube may actually be lifting the traditional broadcast TV model and placing it within their live TV offering instead. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; familiarity for broadcast ad buyers will be a plus.

Additionally, a YouTube spokesperson confirmed that the networks themselves will sell all the commercial time. The commercials will “mimic those that air on traditional cable and satellite operators,” meaning outside of users being within the YouTube environment, everything else will look pretty much like they do on broadcast TV.

It’s a surprising move from a company typically known for its innovation. Perhaps this first step is to establish YouTube’s place in the live streaming space before looking to revolutionize the industry with better advertising opportunities.

And perhaps changes will be made in the upcoming months prior to YouTube TV’s launch to at least test data targeting in this environment. Because why wouldn’t YouTube offer that up as a draw for advertisers when it’s such a no-brainer for their platform, especially when competitors like Sling TV already offer dynamic ad insertion?

Then there’s Hulu’s upcoming live TV service, which may arguably be YouTube’s biggest competitor in the space. With talks about dynamic ad placement in its cloud DVR function, Hulu, on the face of it, appears to be pushing the boundaries further than YouTube.

2) What type of commitments will advertisers need to make?

If YouTube TV is in fact copying the broadcast model, a big question for advertisers will be the rates for that advertising space.

Since networks will be selling all of the inventory, will smaller brands be pushed out of opportunities due to upfront partners? Will the ads be sold based on audiences, or impressions, or views? Will pricing be comparable to other broadband or broadcast buys?

The flexibility of pricing and barriers to entry due to high costs will be a major consideration for advertisers and brands when looking at investments in YouTube TV.

3) How will the ad products affect viewing experiences?

From a consumer perspective, users know YouTube for its pre-roll ads, which typically run from :05 to a few minutes long, some skippable, others not.

Especially for the younger audiences, it may be an adjustment for viewers to accept a more traditional, three-ads-in-a-pod commercial model from YouTube (even if YouTube TV is a different service), and this could become a potential turn-off for users.

4) Will partnerships with Viacom, Turner, A&E, AMC and Discovery ever happen on YouTube TV?

The differences between YouTube TV and its competitors are minimal when it comes down to it. Cloud DVR? Playstation Vue and Sling TV offer it too. Pricing? All main packages fall within the $30–50 range (give or take). Simultaneous account streams? Everyone has it.

The main distinction between these services lies within the networking holes that each of them have, and in YouTube TV’s case, these include major players like Viacom, Turner and AMC.

Depending on users’ show preferences, this may or may not be a deal-breaker (I personally wouldn’t miss these networks’ shows). But, future partnerships with them may help encourage YouTube TV adoption.

Which brings me to my last question…

5) How quickly will YouTube TV scale?

This is probably the point with the biggest question mark right now. No matter how big YouTube’s brand is and how great the service may end up being, you never know for sure whether or not (and how many) users will actually choose to sign up for YouTube TV.

From an advertising perspective, scale will have to come first before conversations get serious with advertisers about allocating ad dollars to YouTube TV. No eyeballs means no money.

This is an important piece everyone will need to pay attention to once the service officially rolls out.

TL;DR: YouTube TV is promising, but without answers to some major questions, I’m not convinced that it will be the hit it has the potential to be, or if it’s something I’ll actually sign up for (yet).

Cord-cutters — guess I’ll see you in 2018.

Kylie Wu is a Brand Manager at Mistress.