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TV or Not TV, Digital Video Strives for Familiarity

NEW YORK — Digital-video companies did their best at the NewFronts to convince media buyers they were like the best of TV, while promising ways to avoid the worst of the web.

YouTube in particular has been dealing with the problem of marketers pulling their ads after finding their messages uncomfortably close to objectionable content.

For all for the world-changing wonder and double rainbows Google’s YouTube has brought the world, CEO Susan Wojcicki had to apologize for the lapses to clients at the company’s Brandcast event here.

Wojcicki promised that teams were working around the clock to make important changes to make sure your ads run in the right places,” but she wasn’t specific and some ad buyers said her assurances left them feeling like they were sitting by their computers waiting for tech support to get them back on line.

And while Wojcicki said YouTube isn’t TV and never will be, aspiring to be something bigger, the company recently rolled out YouTube TV, featuring live streaming TV channels including the big broadcast networks — though that didn’t come up during the presentation.

It also announced a bunch of shows that seemed a lot like TV shows featuring people who’ve long been on TV — such as Ryan Seacrest and Ellen DeGeneres — to attract more dollars from TV advertisers.

But while Netflix and some other streaming-video platforms are teaching viewers to enjoy scripted programming without commercial interruption, You- Tube and Hulu are embracing advertising.

Now’s the time for YouTube to offer advertisers original series with bigger budgets and bigger stars, chief business officer Robert Kyncl said: “More series are showing up ad-free on subscription services. We see these shows as a way for us to partner with you to buck this trend.”

But still, digital video platforms have to assure advertisers they can provide safe environments.

“Consumer trust and confidence in media is at a record low,” Jim Norton, chief business officer and vice president of revenue at Condé Nast, said. “A brand-safe environment and quality content must be the currency on which our industry trades.”

Next week, TV companies will take the stage at their broadcast-week upfront presentations. And as much as digital companies tried to look like TV companies, media buyers expect the networks to talk about how, with data and technology, they’re more like digital than ever.