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NewFronts 2015: YouTube Marks 10th Birthday With Populist Mega-Bash - Broadcasting & Cable

NewFronts 2015: YouTube Marks 10th Birthday With Populist Mega-Bash

Brandcast event trumpets wisdom of crowds and upside for advertisers
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YouTube's prolix NewFronts extravaganza Wednesday didn't aim for big reveals as much as a pure celebration of the platform's first decade of serendipity and growth.

Proudly embracing its user-generated, "broadcast yourself" roots, the Google-owned service took over the Theatre at Madison Square Garden and next-door Moynihan Station for a Brandcast event that stretched to eight hours counting pre- and post-bashes.

News, it must be said, was in desperately short supply. A parade of speakers played mostly to the front rows, which were filled with fans, who cheered nearly every utterance. It was almost certainly the first time the phrase "brand lift" got such an ovation at the Garden.

CEO Susan Wojcicki kicked off the speeches by highlighting YouTube's reach among 18-49s, which she said exceeded that of any cable TV network, even if only mobile use were compared with linear numbers.

"One thing you can't see in the numbers is cultural impact," she added, noting the appeal to politicians, musicians and an array of others. She even showed a giant-sized picture of her infant daughter (her fifth child) as a means of expressing how fast the realm of online video is changing and will continue to in her baby's lifetime.

What followed was essentially equal parts revival meeting and town hall, with a few stats thrown in, mostly by YouTube stars, like event host Grace Helbig who now has the E! talker The Grace Helbig Show, eager to establish how vital YouTube has been to their success.

BuzzFeed, Universal Pictures, author/VidCon organizer John Green and athletic brand Under Armour were among those offering testimonials.

Green, whose book The Fault in Our Stars remains a bestseller and spawned a successful film, offered the most impassioned pitch for YouTube, to the point that a few of the thousands of traditional advertisers in attendance shifted in their seats with either boredom or irritation.

Citing broadcast shows like CSI: Miami and The Blacklist as "instruments of distraction," he argued the system in which they are valued is flawed. "I don't care how many people watch something I make," he said. "I care about how many people love what I make."

He added, "If you want to stay in the eyeballs business ... you risk losing a generation that looks at content not just for distraction but for connection."

By the time Bruno Mars and the all-star ensemble behind "Uptown Funk" took the stage to sing the hit whose "don't believe it? Just watch" stanza is already dominating the NewFront/upfront spring, few in the crowd cared about Google Preferred and its 17% brand lift. They just wanted to dance ... and take some awesome video on their phones.

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