YouTube is expanding the amount of inventory it’s availing in the upfront this year through a new offering called YouTube Select, the company said Tuesday.
YouTube Select grows the pool of inventory advertisers can purchase on a guaranteed upfront basis by bringing more channels into Google Preferred. The new channels, called “emerging lineups,” are organized by categories such as beauty, entertainment, technology and sports, and they allow brands to reach YouTube viewers on the platform’s next tier of popular content.
“Our clients were pushing us to expand inventory available to them in the upfront,” said Tara Walpert Levy, VP of agency and brand solutions at Google.
Emerging lineups have the same advanced brand-safety controls as Google Preferred lineups, including both human and automated content reviews. YouTube Select lineups drove greater ROI than linear TV in 73% of media-mix models analyzed by Nielsen from 2016 to 2018, the company said.
YouTube is also expanding sponsorship opportunities available across top channels and apps but declined to share specifics.
YouTube is making it easier for buyers to purchase inventory from YouTube TV and inventory running on TV screens through dedicated Streaming Lineups, which can be bought in the upfront or programmatically via DV 360. Previously, buyers had to use Google Ads to buy inventory specifically running on TV.
“You can buy on TV screens today, it’s just not easy to do so,” Walpert Levy said. “We made it easier and more comparable to the rest of what we do.”
For buyers, YouTube has been the sleeping giant in the streaming TV space, capturing 40% of ad-supported viewership, despite the historically disjointed buying process. More than 100 million people watch YouTube on their TV screen every month, up 80% year over year, and the platform has 28% unduplicated reach among linear TV viewers.
“Because the ability to buy YouTube as a streaming platform wasn’t as clear, visible or easy for [buyers], it didn’t happen as much,” Walpert Levy said.
Overall, YouTube’s approach to the upfront this year is about flexibility as advertisers deal with the economic fallout of COVID-19 and push investments off. Accommodating a calendar year buying cycle will allow brands to better align their upfront buys with their total investment on YouTube.
“We’re seeing a lot of advertisers and agencies express wildly different interests in terms of deal timing,” Walpert Levy said. “We’re going to be very flexible meeting them where they are.”