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Week In Review: YouTube’s TV Viewership Is Up 90%; More Brand Safety Tsouris For Facebook

1. YouTube’s TV Viewership Is Up 90%

Some interesting numbers from Google about the number of people who watch YouTube on TV: viewership was up 90% in 2016, which matched the 90% rise in 2015. This is regular UGC YouTube, not the new TV service mind you.

Why It Matters

For starters, Comcast executed on their deal with YouTube this week, introducing YouTube into their X1 line-up, a move that will no doubt greatly increase the number of people watching YouTube on TV.

There are a couple of other things going on here, too.

It’s a big win for Team Best Available Screen (BAS) who seem to be winning on many fronts against Team Millennials Only Watch TV On Mobile. (Other notable Team BAS victories include Facebook announcing that they’d be launching an actual TV channel on streaming devices like Roku, and Hulu’s announcement that over 70% of their programming is watched on an actual TV set.)

There are a lot of things Google can do with this information, which they probably won’t because, well, they’re Google. But a less easily distracted company could do things like package their short-form content into 15, 20 or 30 minute segments which they could then schedule in a series of linear channels (e.g., beauty, fitness, eSports) and sell ads against those channels.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re an MVPD, first you need to come to terms with the fact that you’re going to need to move from a linear-based program guide to a more library-based one, heavy on the VOD.

Once you’ve made peace with that, you’re going to want to start buying up short form programming, because people will watch it on TV and because your recommendation engine will serve it up to them, maybe even in larger 15 or 20 minutes chunks, as recommended above. All it costs you is some server space.

Facebook is already all over that, scooping up videos from niche programmers, some of whom have a whole lot of “Likes” on their Facebook pages. (As in more “Likes” than many network TV shows.) So you want to jump on that train sooner than later.

If you’re a network, you’ll want to continue to chop up your talk shows into more digestible bits. Ditto news, sports, weather and anything else you can think of that works in bite-sized chunks. People will watch them and you’ll make more ad revenue and drive more tune-in.

If you’re an advertiser, you want to be all over this new short form on TV thing too, and look into ways to do more than just stick yet another annoying :30 second spot into the pod. Sponsorship is an easy win. (“Best of YouTube Beauty” from Revlon or something similar.) Ditto signing up some YouTube superstars to do branded content segments for you.


2. More Brand Safety Tsouris For Facebook

Still reeling from the revelation that Russian agents took out $100K worth of anti-Hillary Facebook ads during the 2016 election (a very small drop in the bucket for sure, but still…) Facebook is facing new controversy this week: ProPublica ran an exposé showing how one could use Facebook’s ad algorithm to target “Jew Haters” or to use phrases like “how to burn Jews” or “Ku Klux Klan.”

Why It Matters

Beyond the obviously disturbing revelation that people actually have those designations on their Facebook profiles to the point where they can be targeted by advertisers, is the fact that this is yet another hit to the whole notion of brand safety on digital platforms.

While major advertisers are hopefully not targeting their ads at Klanpersons, the fact that the algorithm is so far removed from any human contact so as to allow that is going to be very troubling to many brand managers.

Despite the fact that Facebook reacted more or less immediately, temporarily removing these sorts of targeting options, there’s a strong feeling from people we’ve talked to, that ProPublica only hit the tip of the iceberg and there’s more to come.

Though no one seems to be thinking there was any malice involved, the incident also highlights a more macro issue Facebook needs to deal with: as the world’s largest social network, they need to realize that not everyone acts with good intentions and that stricter guidelines need to be put into place to prevent incidents like this and that the presence of actual humans may be what’s required, at least temporarily. They’ve done a great job making sure that Facebook and Instagram don’t devolve into Twitteresque madness, so we are feeling pretty positive that they can clean this up too.

What You Need To Do About It

Whether you’re an MVPD, a network, a publisher or a non-media related brand, you need to pay extra attention to what’s going on with Facebook. That means monitoring your ads, who sees them and where they are actually running. No reason to pull out from Facebook, but putting your efforts on autopilot is not a good move either.

If you’re Facebook, you need to step up and ensure that things like this can’t happen. Censorship is a rocky road (or a slippery slope, as the U.S. Supreme Court has noted) but you need to figure out how to fix your algorithm so as not to enable the haters.

And for the love of all that is holy, get a search function up on Watch while you’re at it. Not to beat a dead horse, but WTF are you thinking?

Speaking of beating dead horses: We were going to write about what a bad move the new $179 4K Apple TV was, but we’ve been bashing Apple (a company we really like) a lot lately, and, well, Colin Dixon did it for us, writing an article fairly identical to the one we would have written.

So thank you Colin.