Consumers don’t care about YouTube vs TV, so why does the industry?

Consumers don’t care about YouTube vs TV, so why does the industry?


One of my most vivid childhood memories is going to Comet in Bristol to buy our first colour TV.

It’s hard to explain to anyone that grew up in the digital age quite how exciting that transition from black and white to colour really was. It came with the latest technology, a remote control, which consisted of one button that moved the channels from one to six, then back to one again.  

Of course back then, there were only three channels at the time and ITV (or HTV where I lived) was the only one with ads.

Writing this, I’m nostalgic about those times. The entire family around the one device in the house, the whole country watching the same thing at the same time. Shared moments, arguments over what to watch and nowhere to hide when it got awkward.

Times have changed, remarkably so. In my own house I counted 10 connected devices that can stream video content. Getting my teenage kids to watch something with us is a battle and for them the phone, not the TV, is the first screen.  

And yet in many ways this is a golden age for TV content. In the past year I loved C4’s It’s a Sin and David Tennant was brilliant in ITV’s Des. But of course there is so much more now and like many families we have Netflix, Disney+ and Amazon; we also watch very little live TV unless it’s sport or news.

Into this mix we have to recognise the emergence of YouTube as a force in the living room. We’ve been on a journey from desktop to mobile to now a fully cross-device platform.

In the past two years, usage of YouTube on connected TVs in the UK has been surging, with 25 million people now watching monthly.

It’s also time to challenge the perception that it’s only younger demos watching YouTube with ComScore reporting that 96% of the UK online population is reached every month.

So what is TV in 2022? Is it a device, a type of content or a reference to a specific set of broadcasters? When I watch Sky Sports on my phone am I watching TV? When I watch YouTube on TV what is that? When C4 put All4 on to YouTube is that TV?

The reality is that all broadcasters are now cross-device. YouTube has come from mobile to the living room and the traditional broadcasters in the opposite direction, but as we move forward we have to get out of our rivers of thinking.

What people watch, where they watch it and how they watch it have changed and as an industry we have to flex, faster.

While the viewer seems entirely comfortable with these new definitions, are we as an industry still guilty of seeing TV as TV and YouTube as digital?

Measurement is often cited as a reason why we can’t make more progress on integrated AV planning, and it’s true we wait for a genuine cross-media measurement solution to emerge.  

But it’s important to remember that the consumer isn’t waiting around for this and we need to see the industry increasingly embrace new approaches.

I am optimistic about agency initiatives around AV planning with all the major players making encouraging moves, but I also see the potential to move faster.

This is becoming a pressing issue for advertisers as we saw at the Campaign TV Ad Summit last week, where linear TV cost inflation was one of the hot topics.

Inflation is, in part, an output of us not adapting to the changing consumer situation.

Gently declining TV audiences, steeper among younger age groups, is leading to price rises and there is a great unknown ahead as we encounter the unique collision of Christmas and a World Cup, creating an imperative for advertisers to get ahead of the situation.

Increasingly advertisers and agencies are finding that by combining TV and YouTube together they can improve their reach, efficiency and effectiveness.

At our YouTube Festival event, BT’s Graeme Adams shared that YouTube added 15% of incremental reach to its TV campaigns and improved overall cost efficiencies, while maintaining effectiveness.

A sentiment echoed by Zach Jordan from Heineken at the Campaign TV Ad Summit, who highlighted how an AV approach allowed it to target different audiences contextually with relevant creative and ensured that it reached more of its target audience than it would on TV alone.

My trip down memory lane aside, this is not a time for the industry to be nostalgic and I want to end by striking a positive note about the future.

I’m as much a fan of TV as I was all those years ago, it’s just that today there is so much choice. When I’m watching Arsenal Fan TV on YouTube it’s just as valid as when I’m watching the live game and I would encourage advertisers to focus on the audience and attention they have while I’m watching content I’m passionate about. 

I want us to move beyond the idea of YouTube vs TV and I hope we can continue to build bridges within an industry that we are clearly part of.

When I turn on my TV in 2022 I see ITV, YouTube, C4, Netflix, etc, on the same interface. From a consumer perspective we are part of the same space and we need to continue striving to make the way we plan, buy and measure more integrated as well.

Phil Miles is managing director of sales at YouTube UK



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