Monetizing Social Video Success

ITV, the Network that puts on "Britain's Got Talent", seems to have a knack for uncovering great singing talent. In 2007 it was Paul Potts and Connie Talbot. This year it is Susan Boyle.

On the list of top viewed YouTube videos of all time , Boyle's top video is on position 22, Potts at 28, and Talbot at 35 (as of 13th May). These are the only show videos up in such heights - most other videos here are either music videos or legendary virals such as " The Evolution of Dance ", " Charlie bit my finger ", or the laughing Baby " Hahaha ".

Considering Paul Potts and Connie Talbot are a 2 year old success, it is quite amazing how many views they have attracted consistently, and more so recently, in the wake of Boyle: almost a fifth on Potts and Talbot views were in the last month. For comparison, see the following chart:

Approx development of views on Potts, Talbot and Boyle videos

Approx development of views on Potts, Talbot and Boyle videos

All three videos have achieved around 50M views. Obviously, BGT is a huge success in social video and has enabled the show to become a world-wide story rather than limited to British borders. But has ITV been able to monetize on the success online?

In 2007, content owners hadn't really come to grips yet with the value that YouTube presents. Thus, neither the Paul Potts video nor the Connie Talbot video are actually published by ITV. More importantly though, in 2007, YouTube was only starting to develop means to enable content publishers to share in ad revenue on their high performing content. YouTube actually had nothing to offer for these content owners. Nobody can blame ITV for not monetising the YouTube success in 2007.

Seeing all these successes, one would expect that ITV had made arrangements for revenue sharing with YouTube and possibly other sites well before this year's show in preparation for a potential social video hit. Looking at YouTube, where the overwhelming majority of the success has been focused, it seems, however, that they missed the boat. According to The Times UK , the management at ITV insisted that they wanted special terms from Google for the Susan Boyle video because they saw the videos taking off.

Instead of opting for the YouTube tried-and-tested advertising methods, ITV went into discussions with them and wanted special pre-roll ad options, which YouTube wasn't able or willing to offer. However, they achieved some special treatment after all, since it is not possible to embed any of the non-offical copies out of YouTube.

While ITV set up their own YouTube channel and show to publish official copies of the top BGT performances online, they could only watch as the user uploaded videos took off. Kudos have to go to ITV for acting generously and not taking down the copies - at least they can now get official numbers on the complete views on their content.

On 24th April, ITV finally published their own BGT channel and show on YouTube. This contains the official "Susan Boyle" video - almost two weeks after her TV appearance.

How will ITV now monetise the videos?

YouTube offers a revenue share model to publishers of high-performing content through a partnership program. This enables advertisers to place the following kinds of adverts next to the partner content:

  • InVideo ads: These are little overlays that start at 10s into the video occupying the bottom 20% of the video player and containing Google ads. If a user clicks on it, the video is paused and a new tab opens with the clicked-through link.
  • Companion ads: These are a 300x250px banner ads that appear on the watch page of a video of a partner in the prime position next to the video.

These ads can be targeted on user demographics, location, time-of-day and content genre. The content owners receive a 50% share on the CPM charged for these ads.

The ads can be placed on all copies of a piece of content, no matter whether it is published through the official channel of the content owner or through consumer copies. This is just as well for ITV, since the official video of Susan Boyle's performance is only the 10th best performing Susan Boyle video on YouTube when ordered by view count (on 13th May). For relevance ordered queries, the official video ended up on top for a while, but is now down to position 7 - obviously YouTube's ranking is based on freshness of a post as well as views.

Assuming the PS20 CPM value that is quoted in The Times Online , the top performing video on YouTube alone could have made PS1M in advertising revenue, half of which would have gone to ITV - certainly a number that hurts.

Indeed, this number should hurt YouTube as much as ITV, since YouTube only makes money from highly performing videos if the publisher becomes a partner and makes money, too. It should have been in YouTube's interest to allow advertisements next to the prime performing content as quickly as possible. Maybe this shows a need for an additional revenue model for content owners that is not dependent on them setting up a channel or show with YouTube. YouTube should take this as an opportunity!

In the meantime, ITV is indeed making money on YouTube. Their own videos have seen an amazing number of views in the past weeks and the show keeps coming up with amazing talent. For Hollie Steel , the ITV channel indeed provides the video with the highest view count. More than 30M views have come to BGT content since the 24th April and all of this content bears advertising. This means the ITV channel should now have created approx PS600K of ad income - a substantial number indeed.

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