Future of TV Briefing: YouTube makes its case for the TV ad industry’s measurement makeover

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This week’s Future of TV Briefing looks at the measurement principles YouTube released on Tuesday and how the Google-owned video platform fits into the broader measurement overhaul.

  • TrueView?
  • TV industry’s joint measurement committee, Paramount’s potential BET sale, ESPN’s central streaming strategy and more


The key hits:

  • YouTube has published a set of measurement principles that the platform hopes to become an industry baseline.
  • YouTube wants the Media Rating Council’s viewable impression standard to be the basis for measuring impressions.
  • YouTube’s principles are likely to be met with resistance by the traditional TV industry that has drafted its own measurement requirements.

As TV networks and streaming services sort out the overhaul of TV advertising’s measurement system, YouTube wants to make sure it’s not left sitting on the sidelines. And ad buyers want YouTube to be part of the process to deliver on the promise of true cross-platform TV and video measurement. How the Google-owned video platform fits into the new TV measurement landscape isn’t so straightforward, though.

“If we’re trying to look at a new cross-platform video measurement solution, if it doesn’t have YouTube, it’s not complete. Really, the challenge continues to be which version of measurement will win — or several of them might — and how much YouTube will be in charge of that,” said an agency executive. “It feels like very much a struggle right now as to who’s taking charge of this.”

In its bid to take a leadership position on the issue, YouTube plans to publish a set of principles on Wednesday that the platform believes should govern the third-party cross-platform measurement ecosystem. Unsurprisingly, the first principle demands that measurement providers “provide a unified view of audiences across TV, CTV/OTT, and online platforms,” according to a copy of the company blog post that was shared with Digiday.

“Our hope is that these five principles that we outlined for the industry really becomes a charter from which the industry can rally around to make sure that the ultimate solutions that get built are ones that serve the best interests of our marketers and our viewers,” Kate Alessi, managing director on Google’s YouTube and video solutions team, said in an interview.

As the agency executive quoted above indicated, the ultimate aim underpinning YouTube’s principles appears to have the support of ad buyers. “YouTube is the largest source of connected TV ad inventory, and it’s one of the first places a lot of our brands anchor their video plans. We’re obviously active with a lot of others in the premium video space, NBCUniversal among them, but we will value methodologies that measure cross-screen viewership and consumption of all content types wherever possible and wherever there’s third-party accreditation,” said Kevin Cahn, associate vp at digital agency Kepler.

However, YouTube has its work cut out for it with respect to getting the full industry to rally around some of its principles. 

The impression baseline principle

Among YouTube’s principles is a call for the industry to use the Media Rating Council’s viewable impression standard — that 100% of ads be displayed on screen for at least two consecutive seconds to count as an impression —  “as the basis for counting impressions, reach and frequency,” per the platform’s blog post.

“At the end of the day, our belief is that we need comparable standards that we all can agree to. The MRC has set forth the viewable impression, which we believe is a good standard that the industry should rally behind,” Alessi said.

Members of the traditional TV industry seem to share a different belief. “Two seconds is pretty freaking — it’s too small. It’s stupid. I don’t think clients are going to want that,” said a TV network executive.

Some agency executives seem okay with it, though, if only as a starting point. “We could have a lengthy conversation about the validity of the MRC definition of viewable video impressions. But I just think it’s important that they’re graded consistently. That MRC [standard] probably makes the most sense because it’s an established norm,” said a second agency executive. Nonetheless, the buy-side executives acknowledged that the MRC viewable impression standard is a low threshold that TV networks and major streaming services would easily exceed. 

“It’s like, ‘Fine, start there.’ It’s very easy to meet. To the networks’ point, it’s too low to differentiate them,” said the first agency executive.

Therein lies the rub.

The Joint Industry Committee

YouTube’s call for a unified view across TV, streaming and online platforms contrasts with the traditional TV industry’s preference for a more partitioned perspective. Traditional TV industry members, such as trade organization VAB, have sought draw a line between what they consider to be “premium” video platforms — for example, traditional TV networks and streaming services carrying TV and TV-quality programming — and what they describe as user-generated or social video platforms — for example, YouTube and TikTok. 

Indeed, on Monday, the Joint Industry Committee — a consortium of TV network owners, media agencies, industry groups OpenAP and VAB as well as Roku — published its own set of principles of sorts that sequesters platforms like YouTube. The group’s “Baseline Requirement for Cross-Platform Video Currencies” are designed to concentrate on “the entire premium video advertising marketplace,” but the document never defines what it considers to be “premium video.” However, it does call for measurement providers to “separately report out by inventory type (premium video versus UGC or social).”

Whether and when the two sides may reconcile is anyone’s guess. When YouTube recently previewed its measurement principles for agency executives, the executives asked the platform’s employees why YouTube has not joined the Joint Industry Committee. YouTube’s employees gave them the same response that Alessi gave me when I asked her the same question: “We have not been invited to join the Joint Industry Committee,” she said, before noting that Google is participating in the World Federation of Advertisers’ cross-media measurement initiative.

“It’s great to have a set of principles. But [YouTube] having your set of principles and the rest of the industry trying to figure it out over here [through the Joint Industry Committee], how much is that helping the industry,” said the first agency executive.

The currency question

Of course, much of this may be for naught. The overhaul of TV advertising’s measurement system largely centers on the measurements used as the basis for the transactions, i.e. measurement currencies. It’s in the title of the aforementioned JIC document, after all. But YouTube seems reticent to announce its intent to support third-party measurements as currencies for its dealings with advertisers. I spent roughly eight minutes asking Alessi various versions of this question. The closest I got to a clear answer was this:

“At the end of the day, we are setting forth principles that we will use to evaluate how we work with our third-party partners. The third-party partners ultimately are the ones who are making the determination around the ultimate solutions that they offer for their advertisers. So our focus with these principles is really to outline how we will work [with] and support third-party partners and ultimately what we would love our advertisers and agencies to also do as they think about engaging with third-party partners on a go-forward basis,” Alessi said. “Does that make sense?”

What we’ve heard

“In terms of writing original scripts with context, a producer can, in a day — if all the information is there for you and you’re just sort of piecing it together — they can do two to three of those scripts in a day, from start to finish, pitching to producing, editing and getting it up.”

NBC News executive producer of original social video Devan Joseph on the Digiday Podcast

Numbers to know

2%: Percentage share of free, ad-supported streaming TV channels that are aimed at Black audiences.

-5.9 million: Number of subscribers that the top 14 U.S. pay-TV services collectively lost in 2022.

$2,918: How much money creator Zach King made in the first month of the YouTube Shorts ad revenue-sharing program with 196 million views.

11.6: Average number of streaming services and social video platforms that people in the U.S. used in the fourth quarter of 2022.

What we’ve covered

How NBC News’ Devan Joseph and Stephanie Scrafano cover the news on TikTok:

  • The primary poles of that TikTok strategy are the newsier videos produced by Scrafano’s nine-person team and then the feature-esque explainers created by Joseph’s six-person team.
  • Joseph and Scrafano shared some TikTok tricks on the Digiday Podcast.

Listen to the latest Digiday Podcast episode here.

As influencer marketing continues to mature, here’s why brands are hiring creators as ‘creative directors’:

  • Visible has been reducing the number of creators it works with to emphasize fewer, more collaborative relationships.
  • Some brands’ work with creators has expanded beyond using the latter for media placement.

Read more about brands’ creator relationships here.

Wall of Productions aims to fill the creator economy gap that traditional production businesses can’t:

  • The marketing services company originated as an online comedy network in 2015 before forming its production arm.
  • The company has worked with brands including Foot Locker, Spotify and McDonald’s.

Read more about Wall of Productions here.

What we’re reading

TV industry’s measurement committee:
The Joint Industry Committee comprised of TV networks and industry organizations seeking to standardize TV advertising’s measurement makeover has brought seven media agencies as well as Roku into the fold, according to Variety.

Paramount’s potential BET sale:
Paramount is considering selling BET and sibling cable TV network VH1, and Tyler Perry is among the potential buyers, according to The Wall Street Journal.

ESPN’s central streaming strategy:
ESPN has talked with sports leagues and media companies about adding a feature on its properties to link to streaming sports broadcasts carried by others, according to CNBC.

TV advertising’s downturn:
Advertisers are spending less money on TV, which portends a potentially weak upfront market if advertisers find flexibility lacking and flock to connected TV and digital video options instead, according to Adweek.

YouTube’s AI ambitions:
YouTube’s new boss Neal Mohan said the Google-owned video platform is developing generative AI tools for creators but didn’t provide specifics of what it has in mind, according to The Verge.

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