Primetime just got personal

Forget chasing traditional primetime. To attract viewers, follow their passions, writes Google's VP of agency and brand solutions.

Primetime. The word may sound dated in 2019. It conjures up memories of "must-see TV," checking TV Guide, maybe setting your VCR to record your favorite show. Today the very idea of primetime, when everyone gathers nightly around the living room TV to watch whatever’s on the linear schedule, has all but shattered.

Today it’s viewers, not networks, who are the gatekeepers for what’s considered popular programming.

We now live in an on-demand world that can give viewers what they want, whenever they want, on any device. Now we’re able to switch easily between, say, Netflix’s Russian Doll, Hulu’s Handmaid’s Tale, YouTube’s Impulse or The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime.

The future of content is all about passion
As we approach this year’s Upfronts season, it’s time for advertisers to take a fresh look at how people watch, when they watch, and what they really care about. From my vantage point, the future of content in our multi-platform, choice-driven world is all about passion.

Now that increasing numbers of viewers watch streaming media on mobile devices, that content has become more personal. Fitness enthusiasts may do yoga with YouTube’s Adriene in the morning or craft with LaurDIY on Saturday afternoons.

Videos relating to a user’s passion are a full three times more important than whether the content features famous actors, according to a US study from Omnicom Media Group conducted in October 2018. More than 60 percent of people say that the content they watched on YouTube in the last 24 hours was related to something they’re passionate about.

If you’ve had a hard time understanding this new world of online video on a personal level, you’re not alone. Because platforms are so unique to each of us, my personal primetime may look nothing like yours.

Confession time. Back in the day, I was always more of a scripted TV kind of girl. When I first joined Google, I used to set time on my calendar to "watch YouTube." I started with Ted Talks and Late Night shows, and ultimately discovered creators and channels like Marques Brownlee and Postmodern Jukebox. I even get to go back to my scripted roots with shows like Cobra Kai. Now that’s MY primetime.

My husband loves sports highlights and behind-the-scenes stories about players and events. He watches MLB At Bat in the afternoon or evening, on his commute, or after the kids are in bed. That’s HIS primetime.

These seemingly small moments where we turn to video to get a need met are changing everything. This trend is reflected in the increasing number of so-called cord-cutters, consumers who are choosing streaming media over traditional paid TV.

Traditional primetime once meant popularity. Personal primetime means passion. Both capture attention. But personal primetime doesn’t just attract attention — it influences. And that’s another kind of viewership entirely, with profound implications.

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