Twitter and Facebook Are to Challenge YouTube

Twitter and Facebook Are Poised to Challenge YouTube
The growing video ad pie By Tim Peterson

U.S. advertisers will spend $4.14 billion on digital video this year, according to eMarketer estimates. Yet while Twitter and Facebook are among the most popular ways to find and watch videos, they’ll only see a tiny sliver of those dollars since they don’t house the content. But recent developments suggest that the two social giants might one day want to take on the 800-pound streaming gorilla that is YouTube—and in doing so, grab a piece of the growing video ad pie.

“YouTube has become the de facto social [content management system] for content across all platforms. Other channels are distribution channels,” said Alex Jacobs, vp, director of social media at Digitas San Francisco. In a sample of more than 10,000 video brands posted to Facebook earlier this year, Socialbakers found that more than eight times as many were YouTube links as opposed to videos uploaded directly. Right now, Twitter and Facebook are mostly just pipes for YouTube videos—although that is changing.

Last year Twitter made it possible to watch videos within tweets. That led to partnerships with ESPN, Turner Broadcasting and The Weather Company to tweet game highlights or forecast clips featuring preroll ads from brands such as AT&T, Coke and Ford. “Content brands have the staying power [over distribution channels] because they have what consumers are seeking,” said Jonathan Adams, iCrossing’s svp of media, North America.

Now Twitter’s seeking to further invest networks and brands in creating content for its platform. For example, sales teams for BBC America and Twitter have begun pitching major advertisers on bundled buys that would include in-tweet co-branded content, said Mark Gall, evp media sales, BBC America,

The first tweets will hit users’ stream “within a couple months,” he said. Rather than clips and prerolls, expect content created with advertisers specifically for Twitter. “This is about bringing new content in innovative ways.”

Meanwhile, per published reports, Facebook is planning to roll out pricey new video ad units this summer. That could create an uptick in the volume of videos marketers (especially film and TV studios) deliver to the platform. It’s not hard to imagine Facebook aping Twitter’s moves in order to make a frontal assault on YouTube. The site already houses tons of video content from the likes of Vevo, and Facebook almost certainly yearns for a chunk of the associated ad spending.

Facebook may need to move in that direction if it wants to move beyond being simply the place you go for content about people you know, as Jacobs characterizes it, and closer to Twitter’s natural position for content recommendations. But the company had better get a move on, given YouTube’s clout, Twitter’s ambitions and the threat of other video contenders (Yahoo?).

“Twitter has done a great job recently with striking very visible deals,” Adams said. “It’s exciting where they’re going and how they’re aligning with agencies and media brands.”

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