In normal years, September is one of TV’s busiest months, bringing dozens of new pilots and next seasons of recurring series. But this is 2020, so thanks to ongoing COVID-caused production delays, many networks are heading into fall with little or no new content–which means many marketers won’t be able to place ads on the usual primetime premieres.

And that’s where YouTube is trying to come in.

YouTube has been pushing its growing TV user base hard since early 2019, when users were watching around 250 million hours of content on TVs each day. At this year’s NewFronts in June, it revealed that figure has ballooned to more than 450 million hours each day. At the same time, the company introduced ad products like YouTube Select (which lets marketers place ads on content watched via TV screen), plus TV-optimized versions of popular ad formats like mastheads and brand surveys.

Now, the platform is amping up its TV-specific ad tools–including audience targeting and measurement of unique views–in an apparent bid for marketing money that would normally be spent on traditional TV networks.

Unique reach metrics

First, YouTube has rolled out unique reach metrics, something that was already available for ads run on browser and mobile, to TV viewership. Unlike cookie-based metrics, which measure each time a particular device sees an ad, unique reach measures the total number of users who were shown a particular ad while accounting for the fact that people often see ads multiple times across different devices. Unique reach also tells marketers the average number of times each user saw the same ad over seven-day, 30-day, and all-time periods.

Additionally, unique reach can offer up demographic information about ad viewers. So, while marketers could already tell how many devices their ads reached using cookie-based measurement, with unique reach, they’re now able to see how many unique users within particular demographics saw their ads.

“This capability gives brands a more precise understanding of the impact of ads on connected TVs and better articulates their contribution to the overall reach and frequency performance of digital advertising,” YouTube said in a blog post about the updates.

Programmatic ad reach predictions

Also on the metrics front, YouTube announced that it has added programmatic deals into its forecasting tool that predicts what kind of reach advertisers can expect their campaigns to achieve. (For those not in the know, “programmatic” placement refers to using software to automatically bid on and buy ad space, as opposed to having a human manually buy each spot.)

Adding programmatic ads to predictions impacts advertisers across YouTube, not just those buying ads on content watched via TVs. But according to YouTube, this change is “particularly helpful” to brands that already buy ads on traditional TV content and are considering expanding to YouTube content.

That’s because most TV marketing deals are done one by one, person-to-person, the platform said. With programmatic ads mixed into its prediction tool, it can now tell advertisers how much they could increase their overall marketing reach by having software automatically buy YouTube ad space for them on top of their manual deals.

Last up, YouTube said that it is currently testing more TV ad formats. One current test involves a new “cinematic teaser format” for Android TV home screens; that’s in beta with media and entertainment advertisers in the U.S.

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