AT&T ads returning to YouTube, two years after pulling back over content
(Reuters) - AT&T Inc T.N said Friday it will again buy advertising on Alphabet Inc's GOOGL.O YouTube, nearly two years after the U.S. wireless carrier left the video platform when it discovered its ads may have appeared next to inappropriate content.
AT&T is one of the largest U.S. brand marketers by total ad spend, according to research firm eMarketer, and its return caps off a tumultuous period for YouTube beginning in March 2017, when major advertisers including Verizon Communications Inc VZ.N and Johnson & Johnson JNJ.N, left the platform after their ads played during videos featuring hate speech or other disturbing material.
As brands eventually returned to YouTube, AT&T remained a major advertiser that held back.
After 22 months of working closely with Google, AT&T said it was confident “that there is a near-zero possibility” its ads could end up appearing next to inappropriate or unapproved content on YouTube, Fiona Carter, AT&T’s chief brand officer, said in an interview.
Increased human review of videos and improved machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) within YouTube helped AT&T decide to return, Carter said. Additionally, AT&T ran three “dummy” ad campaigns that used Google house ads to mimic how AT&T would run its own ad campaigns, so the company could be sure they would not unintentionally appear on videos that were counter to its corporate values.
AT&T reviews the content and topics it considers appropriate for its brand on a quarterly basis. It avoids advertising next to content that is violent or extremist, or includes hate speech and adult content, using YouTube’s Brand Suitability System, a set of stricter advertising rules the platform put in place last year.
“We knew that we needed to have our hands on the wheel,” Carter said, adding she was happy with how Google rose to the challenge to address brand safety on YouTube.
AT&T will begin purchasing ads over the coming weeks, though Carter declined to say how much the company expects to spend on YouTube.
2. WATCH A VIDEO: Press the navigational buttonsto scroll through the videos available on the homepage. Press the OK button to select the desired video.
3. SEARCH FOR A VIDEO: Press the navigationalbuttonsto highlight the search icon, then press the OK buttonto select. Use the keypadto enter the desired keywords, then either press the down button to highlight the desired optionand press the OK buttonto select, or press the OK buttonto search.
4. Press the navigational buttonsto highlight the desired video, then press the OK buttonto select.
AT&T TV has arrived and with it, AT&T has yet another option for those looking to ditch traditional cable or satellite. It comes with an Android TV-powered box, starts at $50 per month (for the first year, but then almost doubles) and lets you find channels by using actual numbers as opposed to endlessly scrolling through a guide. But how does it compare with the many other cable TV replacements on the market? We pitted it against our favorite live TV-streaming service, the CNET's Editors' Choice winner YouTube TV,to find out.
Both do largely the same thing: They stream a bunch of channels live to your TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV or Apple TVstreamer, phone or tablet. Both let you ditch traditional cable once and for all. The big difference? YouTube is also $50 per month, but unlike AT&T TV it doesn't require you to sign a contract. So how do you choose between them?
Our favorite for most cord cutters is still YouTube TV because it doesn't require a contract and has more top channels in its base package. If money isn't a concern however then AT&T TV is an interesting choice. It comes with HBO included and, depending on where you live and which channel package you get, a better assortment of regional sports channels. Here's how they stack up.
Read:Best internet providers in 2019: How to choose cable vs. DSL vs. satellite and more
AT&T TV ($50)
For those not ready to make the full streaming leapSarah Tew/CNET
AT&T TV is for those who want to try cord cutting but still want some of the traditional methods like channel numbers and a dedicated box. Included HBO and a strong collection of local sports options are perks, but complications with Roku, pricey plans and a two-year contract that guarantees a price increase in year two make it a tough sell to those ready to truly ditch cable.
Cost: YouTube TV is cheaper and doesn't require a contract
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YouTube TV: YouTube TV costs $50 and doesn't offer any add-on channel packages, although it does have a handful of single-channel add-ons including Showtime, EPIX and (coming soon) HBO. This one-price approach mitigates the paralysis of choice a little bit.
AT&T TV: Beyond a box, AT&T TV brings over a lot that will remind you of DirecTV or cable. This includes a large selection of packages starting at $50 per month (for the first year). Like cable, however, there are a ton of small fees. That price? It's the first year of a required two-year contract where year two will see the base package jump from $50 per month to $93 per month. There also are a bunch of other fees like a $20 one-time "activation fee" for setting up that required box. And if you want additional boxes they cost $120 each.
Channels: AT&T wins, if you want to pay more
YouTube TV has one package with 70 plus channels and in many markets includes locals such as CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox and PBS as well as popular channels including ESPN, TNT and USA.
AT&T, meanwhile, has four main packages (prices are for the first year):
- Entertainment ($50) which includes ESPN, TNT and USA
- Choice ($55) package which throws in regional sports networks.
- Xtra ($65) with over 235 channels
- Ultimate ($75) with over 250 channels
AT&T is a better option for many sports fans n the New York or Los Angeles areas because YouTube TV no longer carries YES Network or Fox Sports West and Prime Ticket. If you visit the YouTube site, or the AT&T site you can enter your zip code and check which local and regional sports networks are available in your area.
Usability: Pretty much a tie, but YouTube wins on Roku and DVR
The menus and interfaces on both services are relatively drab, especially in the mobile app versions.
YouTube TV: In general the YouTube TV interface is easier to use, and not just to people used to using regular YouTube. If you're using the desktop or app versions, Google's streamer offers a more streamlined structure that's also nicer on the eye. The quick "live" tab on the bottom of the mobile app is also a quick, easy way to get to live programming.
AT&T TV: By using its own traditional box, AT&T's TV service on televisions is pretty similar to what you'd find with DirecTV, down to the same channel numbers for directly switching. Google Assistant integration is also helpful for quickly jump to a channel, show or movie.
You can also watch using the AT&T TV app on TV devices like Roku and Fire TV, or phones and tablets. The app is fairly similar to YouTube's on mobile but having the "guide" button almost hidden in the upper left corner on is a bit frustrating compared to YouTube's decision to feature it as a dedicated tab (Live).
Both services allow for three simultaneous streams and have apps on iOS, Android, Apple TV, Android TV and Fire TV. For the moment AT&T does not allow new downloads of its app on Roku, giving YouTube TV a point there. While a single box is included with the AT&T service and you can use the app on other devices, although as we mentioned above if you want an additional AT&T TV you'll need to purchase one for $120.
AT&T includes 500 hours of cloud DVR with its service, which is a lot, but it pales in comparison to YouTube TV's unlimited storage. Another point for YouTube TV.
Read more: Best streaming device of 2020: Roku, Apple TV, Fire Stick, Chromecast and more
Which service is best for you?
If you want a special box and channel numbers, or live in an area where your local sports aren't on YouTube TV, then AT&T TV is for you.
But if you're ready to truly cut the cord and all the bad that comes with cable, especially two-year contracts, there is no reason to choose AT&T TV over YouTube TV. A cheaper rate, excellent app and the ability to work on a large number of devices without the need for a dedicated cable box makes YouTube TV a more flexible and affordable option than AT&T TV.
Below you'll find a chart that's a smaller version of this massive channel comparison. It contains the top 100 channels from each service. Some notes:
- Yes = The channel is available on the cheapest pricing tier.
- No = The channel isn't available at all on that service.
- $ = The channel is available for an extra fee, either a la carte or as part of a more expensive package or add-on. See above for pricing info on AT&T TV's step-up channel packages.
- Not every channel a service carries is listed, just the "top 100" as determined by CNET's editors. Minor channels such as AXS TV, CNBC World, Discovery Life, GSN, POP and Universal Kids didn't make the cut.
- Regional sports networks -- channels devoted to showing regular-season games of particular pro baseball, basketball and hockey teams -- are not listed.
AT&T TV vs. YouTube TV: Top 100 channels compared
|Channel||AT&T TV||YouTube TV|
|Channel||AT&T TV||YouTube TV|
|BBC World News||$||Yes|
|Big Ten Network||$||Yes|
YouTube Revamped Its Ad System. AT&T Still Hasn’t Returned.
AT&T, one of the nation’s biggest marketers, has yet to return to YouTube nearly a year after pulling its advertising from the platform because of concerns that it could appear alongside offensive material.
The company was among a wave of major marketers who paused their spending on YouTube last March after it was found that ads were appearing on videos promoting hate speech or terrorism and other disturbing content. The Google-owned video service has since introduced a series of changes aimed at limiting the types of videos that can run ads, and most brands have resumed marketing on the platform.
But that has not been enough for AT&T, which wants YouTube to get “as close to zero tolerance for this issue as possible,” Fiona Carter, the company’s chief brand officer, said in a recent interview.
“It became apparent to us as we worked through this that too much of the content our advertising could appear against was not brand safe — it was objectionable by any measure,” Ms. Carter said. “You really have an epiphany when you see some of that content.”
She added, “Our findings are that no matter the algorithm or the filters or the formula that you currently apply, nothing beats human review.”
AT&T believes that its dialogue with YouTube played a role in the platform’s announcement last month that humans will manually vet videos from channels that are part of Google Preferred — a designation applied to channels representing the top 5 percent of content on YouTube that helps brands advertise on popular videos.
Over the past year, major marketers have been demanding more accountability from Google, Facebook and the rest of the digital advertising ecosystem, as they have come to the conclusion that the same algorithmic tools that allow unprecedented access to consumers can be used to spread misinformation, hate speech and harmful videos that target children. On Monday, Keith Weed, the chief marketing officer of Unilever, called on tech companies to take greater responsibility for what appears on their sites and said that his company would not invest in platforms “that do not protect our children or which create division in society and promote anger or hate.”
“We’ve been talking about the digital supply chain for several years but what happened last year is it became a societal issue, a people issue,” Mr. Weed said in an interview after delivering remarks on eroding trust in tech companies at an industry conference in Palm Desert, Calif.
Mr. Weed said that while he would pull dollars from the platforms “if something happened which was completely inappropriate for our brands or our business,” he wanted to work with the companies to improve their sites.
“What I’m not doing is giving some sort of public ultimatum,” he said.
Brian Wieser, a media analyst at Pivotal Research, said that marketers were clearly having an influence.
“If they said nothing then the only thing that would cause the platforms to act is the risk of government regulation,” he said.
But Unilever, he said, was not taking an especially hard line with the tech companies as far as its advertising budget. “It’s not like they set a threshold and said companies who don’t do this lose their money specifically,” he said.
Unilever, which owns brands like Ben & Jerry’s and Dove, did not pull its marketing dollars from YouTube last year, saying at the time that the number of ads running with objectionable content was proportionally small and that it would use the moment to win new concessions from Google.
Mr. Weed reiterated that position on Monday.
“What I’m talking about here is moving the conversation along,” he said.
Unilever, for example, has been talking with YouTube about implementing more human screening of videos that include children to make sure that they are not being exploited.
“There is nothing we take more seriously than the trust and safety of our users, customers and partners, and we will continue to work to earn that trust every day,” a Google spokesperson said of Mr. Weed’s remarks.
Even though AT&T hasn’t been spending money on YouTube ads in the past year, it has worked closely with the platform to improve its systems and is eager to have its ads again seen by YouTube’s huge audience of teen and twentysomething viewers. YouTube has said that its manual reviews of Google Preferred channels would be complete by the end of March.
“We’re very hopeful we can get back onto YouTube,” Ms. Carter said. “It delivers the scale we want but we had to roll up our sleeves and find that performance elsewhere.”
AT&T spent more than $1 billion on advertising in the United States last year through September, while Unilever spent $644 million, according to data from Kantar Media. AT&T was the sixth-biggest advertiser in the country during that period, Unilever was No. 16.
AT&T also said that it would audit its programmatic ad spending in coming months, as it tries to better understand the process through which technology and automation place its online ads in front of consumers. That realm of advertising has drawn scrutiny from marketers in recent years amid reports that much of their spending, which is difficult to trace, is going to tech companies and agency fees rather than publishers.
Ms. Carter said that it would be working with its agency, Omnicom’s Hearts & Science, and the firms AdFin and Amino Payments to figure out how its money moves through those systems.
“I believe that marketers, and to a certain extent agency partners, have not been in control of the way the advertising process is moving,” Ms. Carter said. “It’s incumbent upon us to drive the key issues and shine a light on them and ensure that budgets are being spent in service of the right goals.”
AT&T’s efforts underscore the strange world that advertisers are navigating online.
“Five, six, seven years ago, the majority of spend was in TV, print, even outdoor, and you had absolute clarity in where your advertising was appearing but far less data around who you were advertising against,” Ms. Carter said. “We’ve flipped that now.
“We have incredible data and insights into the people we’re advertising against, but we no longer are really seeing across the digital ecosystem.”
Tube at&t you
AT&T enlists YouTube star to help sell 5G
DALLAS AT&T and top-tier streamer and content creator Tim "TimTheTatman" Betar are entering a strategic agreement collaborating on content, events and innovation to showcase AT&T's 5G capabilities.
Why does it matter? Since entering gaming and esports in 2018, AT&T has built powerful connections with some of the most influential organizations and content creators in the industry. Now, AT&T and TimTheTatman will show the power of 5G technology in fun and relatable ways to his core gaming audience.
What can we expect from this collaboration?
The collaboration comes to life next week when AT&T and TimTheTatman embark on the AT&T 5G Roadshow a first of its kind 5G showcase for the streaming world. Kicking off on Sept. 28 at 1:30 p.m. EST on Tim's channels, Tim will take his livestreams on the road to three iconic locations across the country all thanks to the power of AT&T 5G.Viewers can tune into TimTheTatman's YouTube channel today at around 1:00 p.m. ET to find out where he's headed first and follow him on Instagram and Twitter to learn more.
What are people saying?
"To work with a brand like AT&T who is literally powering the gaming community with its technology is such an incredible opportunity and a collaboration that just made sense," said TimTheTatman. "I'm beyond excited to share what fun things we've cooked up together with the power of AT&T 5G on our side."
"Gaming has never been a one-way relationship. And with AT&T 5G at our fingertips, fans, streamers, broadcasters, teams and organizations can share more content than ever before and power the way fans watch and participate in the activities they love," said Sabina Ahmed, assistant vice president of sponsorships and experiential marketing at AT&T. "We are beyond excited to join the TatmanArmy and team up with Tim an incredible force in the gaming world to bring exciting and immersive 5G activations to his 14 plus million fans."
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