YouTube now bigger than TV among advertisers' target audience

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki kept it simple Thursday in the digital video company’s annual pitch to advertisers.

“I’m happy to announce that on mobile alone YouTube now reaches more 18- to 49-year-olds than any network -- broadcast or cable,” she told a crowd of 2,700 gathered at the Javits Center in Manhattan. "In fact, we reach more 18- to 49-year-olds [in the U.S.] during prime time than the top 10 TV shows combined.”

The finding, based on a Google-commissioned Nielsen study of 2015 viewing data, is significant as the 18-to-49 age group is the target audience that most advertisers seek to reach through TV. YouTube has seen gains in that audience, while TV’s hold on it is slipping. The loss has been especially pronounced among viewers under age 35, who are increasingly drawn to online video.

Wojcicki’s pitch was buoyed by the recent news that Interpublic Group’s media buying arm Magna Global is moving $250 million out from its fall TV ad budgets into YouTube. The dollars will go into ads that run on Google Preferred, the package of YouTube videos by established content creators.

The shift by Magna Global shows that the growth of digital video advertising is still strong even though traditional media companies say they are seeing increased demand and pricing for their TV commercials. Research firm EMarketer has projected that digital video advertising is expected to grow by 28.5% this year to $9.84 billion. Nearly $2 billion of that pie will go to YouTube.

Wojcicki’s remarks kicked off a flashy staged spectacle -- which the company calls its Brandcast -- that featured YouTube stars such as Lilly Singh and Mindy McKnight. Sesame Street’s Big Bird dropped by as the educational program provides videos for YouTube Kids. There was also an after-dinner performance by singer-songwriter Sia.

National Basketball Assn. Commissioner Adam Silver also appeared to announce that the league’s content is now available for advertisers to buy on Google Preferred.

Google also revealed that it’s enhancing its Google Preferred packages with what it calls Breakout Videos. It gives advertisers a chance to place spots in YouTube videos by less well-known creators whose work suddenly becomes popular.

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio

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