Billie Eilish, Roger Goodell and AI Talk

If there has been a consistent message from YouTube over the past couple of years, it has been built around its vast ecosystem of creators. More recently, that has been joined by artificial intelligence, with the Google-owned video platform rolling out generative AI tools for creators, and for advertising partners.

So it is no shock that creators and AI were two hot topics of conversation at YouTube’s annual Brandcast upfront event Wednesday evening.

And while there were plenty of other surprises (performances from Billie Eilish and Finneas, and K-pop stars Stray Kids; a deal to stream WNBA games on YouTube TV; and a surprise appearance from NFL commissioner Roger Goodell), the creators, as usual, were the focus of the show.

To that end, YouTube announced a new advertising product “Select Creator Takeovers,” in which “brands will be able to collaborate with top creators to own 100 percent share of voice on their channel,” per YouTube.

“Creators are drawing audiences on the big screen because they’re the new Hollywood,” YouTube CEO Neal Mohan told the crowd, building on his Hollywood Reporter op-ed arguing that creators should be eligible for Emmy Awards. “They have business strategies, writers’ rooms and production teams. They’re reimagining classic TV genres, from morning shows to sports commentary. And they’re inventing entirely new ones! You’ll see more about that tonight. Along the way, creators are redefining what we think of as ‘TV.’ And they deserve the same acclaim as other creative professionals. I believe it’s time a creator won an Emmy.”

The platform trotted out popular creators like Zach King, Haley Kalil, Valkyrae and Ryan Trahan to tout how the platform built their followings and gave them careers.

But there was plenty of touting YouTube’s well-established TV reach as well. And this time, it is adding AI. The company announced “Video Reach Campaigns Non-Skips,” which will be an “AI-powered format” designed for TV sets. And yes, it will not be skippable.

“Google AI has been at the core of our ads solutions for years,” said Sean Downey, president, Americas & Global Partners for Google. “As we make advances, our ability to help brands drive ROI just keeps getting better.”

The platform said that AI-optimized ad campaigns were nearly four times as effective as manually optimized ones.

YouTube also rolled out a new branded QR code option, to enable easier and more custom shoppability.

As for the WNBA deal, it’s an agreement between Google and Scripps Sports, which holds some local WNBA rights. YouTube TV will make the 30 local WNBA games available in its base plan (it will also, of course, have WNBA games available via both CBS and ESPN).

And for the second straight year, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell took to the stage, where he praised YouTube’s “faultless” first year of NFL Sunday Ticket.

“They were outstanding partners. They always have been and we look forward to a long relationship, but they really brought the game to our fans in a different way,” Goodell told the crowd, joined by former NFL star turned YouTube creator Shannon Sharpe.





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