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Boasting over a billion users worldwide and with millions of videos watched every day, the platform has long been one of the top choices for brands and marketers hoping to take advantage of its large audiences.
Late last October, YouTube launched their new subscription service designed to provide a better service to both their fans and creators. YouTube Red allows users to watch content on the site without having to sit through annoying ads.
This is not the first time that YouTube has attempted to move its large base of subscribers into what it calls ‘sub-genres’. They’ve already created their music channel and earlier in 2015 they produced apps specifically aimed at gaming for kids. YouTube Red provides all users with the option to:
· Enjoy ad-free viewing of all videos across the platform, including those of well-known creators.
· The ability to download offline viewing and synchronise between devices.
While this gives users more personal access to the platform, it’s not where the YouTube Red attempted revolution is going to end. The plan is to introduce new and exciting creator content that is only available to members on the channel and will include original series and feature length movies that could rival streaming services such as Netflix.
YouTube are only too well aware that the way we watch stuff and what we want to watch is changing dramatically. Whereas 20 years ago there were cinemas and TV to choose from, today’s viewers have a wider choice, can download content from a variety of sources and view it on multiple devices. Variety Magazine has found that in their top 20 celebrity influencer list, the top 6 spots are now filled by YouTubers (with Bruno Mars and Taylor Swift coming in 7th and 8th).
“New research we conducted with Nielsen shows that the time 18 to 34 year olds spent on TV fell nine percent last year. Meanwhile, this same audience spent 48% more time on YouTube, with mobile viewing making up the largest source of growth.”
Younger audiences are turning off from subscription TV and looking for more varied viewing opportunities online, particularly with platforms such as YouTube which sees 400 hours of video being uploaded every minute. It’s all about providing a personal viewing platform where people can access more of what they want rather than being fed content by large organisations that have their own agenda.
There’s no doubt that the growth in video consumption online has been fuelled by the smart device – mobile phones, tablets and pcs connected to the Wi-Fi ether. This means people don’t have to sit in the same room and watch a screen but can go off on their own, switch on a smartphone and watch what they want, where they want, wherever they are.
Compared to most streaming platforms, YouTube has a much more diverse range of content. This is because it is democratised and can allow anyone who follows the guidelines to post their own video. It has been a tremendous success and has created some phenomenal stars as well as allowing advertisers to get into the mix.
But it’s not all positive news. The introduction of YouTube Red has caused some consternation amongst creators. The most successful ones earn revenue from the platform but have been told since the launch of red they will need to sign a new deal if they want their content to be shown. While it doesn’t affect those who upload average clips for sharing, those comedians, musicians, gamers, instructors and businesses that use it to boost their popularity will need to sign on the dotted line if they want to get valuable exposure and continue to have their content shown on the main channel as well as Red.
This means some popular user generated content could disappear altogether if creators decide not to sign up to the new terms. This led to ESPN to vanishing from the site in October when it found that signing the deal would conflict with rights issues surrounding their latest content. Others were soon to follow though YouTube was sticking to its guns and saying they couldn’t have a situation where some creators were using the service and others not.
There has also been some uncertainty about how the introduction of YouTube Red is going to affect areas like brand marketing. Big corporations such as Sony have long realised the benefits of engaging with the YouTube generation but probably won’t suffer too greatly as they have the resources to change their marketing tactics on the subscription channel. For smaller brands this could certainly be a problem if large numbers of people take up the option of YouTube Red. Some estimates put that figure at 48 million fewer viewers on the subscription free part of the platform that could have a serious impact.
It is going to take some imagination and thought for marketers to get round the pay firewall and have their brands noticed in future. One way they will be able to do this is with better content marketing that actually doesn’t look like advertising – difficult to achieve because you have to ditch obvious brand pushing for more useful, entertaining content that may not have as much impact. This is about playing a long game rather than looking at immediate click through rate from ads.
The other option is to jump on the back of already successful, or up and coming, content creators although this still comes with the need to be careful about pushing too much advertising. Creators are also pretty determined to protect their own brands and make sure they grow their viewing figures rather than boost their advertising revenue. Much will depend on how YouTube Red’s new revenue deal will benefit those content creators and whether they need to seek other avenues for funding that could provide opportunities brands. It also depends on how much YouTube are going to police things like product placement.
It’s unclear as yet where the future lies for marketers and brands who want to get their message out to the world. If YouTube is starting to clamp down on things like product placements in videos then it could be the platform moves towards a complete ban on advertising, making their money from subscription and their own new content. There might be sobering times ahead for the advertising industry and it will be interesting to see how they adapt in the next year or so to YouTube Red’s success or failure.
For the moment, there are still plenty of viewers on YouTube’s subscription free service.