By Sahil Patel
YouTube isn’t disruptive to television, it can be additive — at least, that’s the message Google is pitching with the release of a new study measuring online behaviors tied to TV programming.
Specifically, searches for TV shows and related content on Google and YouTube have risen by 16% and 54%, respectively. What’s more, Google says it’s seen watch time on YouTube for TV-related content also grow 65% year over year.
Mobile, in particular, is driving this growth. According to Google, searches for TV content on Google and YouTube have increased more than 100% year over year on mobile. On smartphones, searches are primarily to find information on the shows, while those on tablets are actually seeking out content to watch.
Of real interest to TV companies, though, is the finding that all of this consumption activity actually leads to higher ratings on TV. Per the study, the analysis of Google searches, YouTube searches, and YouTube video views show positive .72, .74, and .67 correlations with “live plus three day” Nielsen ratings, respectively.
“The number one question my clients ask is: We know there is a huge audience on YouTube, we know it’s a space we need to look at, but how is it going to impact my ratings?” says Jennifer Duddy, a former A+E executive who now serves as head of industry for cable TV at Google. The company’s always believed that YouTube has an additive effect on TV viewership, and is glad that it now has some “data points to support some of those hypotheses.”
Where this gets more interesting is in the instances when TV shows use their YouTube channels to distribute original/never-before-seen content. (The late-night shows from Kimmel and Fallon are the best examples of YouTube-savvy TV programs that put “digital exclusives” or extended and behind-the-scenes content on YouTube.)
“Putting original content and providing the YouTube audience with original content that they can use to supplement their interest really does work,” says Duddy. “We are seeing that that kind of engagement does translate to increased linear viewership.”
A lot of the TV-related “original” content doesn’t come from the shows themselves, either. According to the study, for every piece of content uploaded by a show’s network on YouTube in 2013, there were more than seven pieces of fan-uploaded content. The most intense fans? Those who love “Game of Thrones” (82 fan videos for every official video) and “The Vampire Diaries” (69 fan videos per official video).
Here, again, TV networks can employ original/bonus content to feed fans’ appetites. “Any kind of additional video footage tends to do well,” says Duddy. “People are looking for official trailers, but once they’ve seen that, they want additional content. Use content that may not make it on to ‘TV proper’ and fans will eat it up.” This, in turn, will grow on-air viewership, creating what Duddy describes as a “circular and additive” relationship between YouTube and TV content providers.
Google says its study analyzed search queries, video views, and engagement metrics from a sample of 100 cable and network television shows.