YouTube is bringing 30-second unskippable ads to TVs

YouTube is making its service more appealing to TV ad buyers with a new ad offering announced on Wednesday at its annual YouTube Brandcast upfront event in New York. The company said it will introduce 30-second unskippable ads on connected TVs, which will replace the two, 15-second consecutive ads that run today when advertisers target top videos through the YouTube Select program.

Launched in 2020, YouTube Select has been part of the company's ongoing efforts to cater to marketers who want to ensure their ad dollars are going to high-performing, but also brand-safe, video content. The program offers advertisers access to a more curated, higher-quality selection of creators and publishers across various categories, like music, sports, gaming, food, entertainment, technology and more.

Today, YouTube Select is landing more than 70% of impressions on the TV screen, the company said, citing internal data.

Now, YouTube's advertisers will be able to target their campaigns across these videos with longer, 30-second ads, which YouTube says better aligns with advertiser objectives and allows for "richer storytelling." It also means advertisers can re-use their existing collateral, rather than create shorter content just for reaching YouTube's audience. Meanwhile, YouTube believes that viewers at home are also more likely to be receptive to longer, 30-second ads when watching on the big screen, as that's already common when watching TV.

The feature is arriving along with the addition of "Pause" ads on Connected TV devices, which will allow advertisers to showcase their brand when a video is paused.

The updates to the ad experience come on the heels of a Nielsen report that found YouTube (excluding YouTube TV) was the only streaming service in the U.S. that was growing its viewing time, as others like Netflix, Disney+, HBO Max, Prime Video, Peacock and Hulu either declined or stayed flat. YouTube viewing was up 1.5% from March 27-April 30, 2023, or an increase of 0.3 share points, the report found.

The company has been chasing TV ad dollars for some time by presenting at the TV upfronts, in addition to the digital NewFronts alongside other tech companies, like Meta and Snap. This may be the correct move for the streamer, as not only would it allow it to charge TV ad prices, but nearly half of all of YouTube's U.S. viewership is now taking place on TVs, The Information reported earlier this month.

Including YouTube TV, YouTube reached more than 150 million people across connected TVs in the U.S. last month, YouTube also announced at Brandcast.

In addition to the unskippable and pause ads, YouTube said advertisers will soon be able to reach football fans across its entire array of NFL content, including live games on YouTube TV and Primetime Channels, or when watching highlights, post-game commentary or other related content. Plus, as part of its NFL partnership, it's adding a new original Shorts series on the NFL's YouTube channel after football season starts, "NFL Creator of the Week."

Of course, YouTube made a point to tout its AI capabilities at the event, noting that Google AI can help advertisers find the best mix of formats to reach their campaign goals, among other things.