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YouTube’s Soaring Viewership During the Pandemic Proves Big Draw for Advertisers

Fern Siegel

The pandemic is changing everything — including how often people watch streaming TV.

A recent Comscore report notes more than 70 million U.S. households now stream content on connected TV screens. YouTube internal data estimates its service spiked 80 percent in watch time compared with last year. Live content is even higher, per the streamer, rising more than 250 percent between March 11 and April 10 year-over-year.

Given such viewer hikes, YouTube, owned by Alphabet Inc.’s Google, wants to make the climate even more attractive for advertisers. To do that, it’s offering new tools and audience stats specifically for advertising on TV.

Bloomberg reports YouTube marketers can now access consumer surveys from viewers easily and run more ad formats, such as skippable ads. These tools — Brand Lift metrics and flexible formats for TV content — are an effort to make YouTube a key element in marketing budgets.

The streamer’s live video consumption, which it says grew 250 percent from March 11 to April 10, year-over-year, is also persuasive.

“Live was not a big part of our conversations with advertisers. It’s become more so,” said Debbie Weinstein, a YouTube vice president for sales. “That could be a place where we try to drive some innovation,” she told Bloomberg.

Marketers are also paying more for new shows. Some 60 percent of viewers are watching videos published within a week — either via YouTube app or YouTubeTV subscription service.

YouTube has also shifted its content strategy: It has 100-plus original projects scheduled for 2020, doubling its 2019 output. Documentaries will be a strong element in this year’s programs.