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In an upfront week that saw NBCUniversal, Fox, Disney and even TelevisaUnivision tout their corporate relationships with the NFL, only YouTube got the commissioner himself.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell took the stage at Lincoln Center’s David Geffen Hall during YouTube’s Brandcast event to tout the league’s Sunday Ticket deal with the video platform.
Joined by the YouTube football creator known as Deestroying, the platform also announced new NFL programming that would be coming to the platform.
The new NFL shows include Game Day All Access, which will see players mic’d up on the sidelines during games, and a new YouTube Shorts program, NFL Creator of the Week, which will debut after the season kicks off. In addition, Goodell said that YouTube creators would get exclusive access to games to create content for their platforms.
“NFL Sunday Ticket is only the beginning,” Goodell told the audience of media buyers.
And while the upfronts from the traditional TV companies have made light of the writers strike, for which concern around generative artificial intelligence is a serious part of the negotiations, YouTube leaned into AI, with CEO Neal Mohan telling the crowd that “generative AI is at an inflection point.”
“Our teams are already using AI to get ads in front of the right audiences, to improve measurement, or to flip a creative to reach viewers wherever they’re watching, from shorts to the living room,” Mohan added. “But this is really just the beginning — simply put, AI will transform the way we make videos. You can imagine that with just the click of a button, I could change my hair color or change my background to instantly transport myself from the desert to a forest. Google AI is accelerating creativity, and the possibilities will extend beyond anything we can imagine today.”
The company suggested its AI products could help marketers more efficiently target consumers.
And if the NFL and AI weren’t enough acronyms, YouTube also leaned into CTV, announcing unskippable 30-second ads on connected TV devices and new pause ads.
It was a classic YouTube event, with creators front and center, a fashion show, musical performances from creator Jacob Collier, giveaways (including cookies shaped like pizzas, from creator Airrack, and a free year of Sunday Ticket for advertisers in the crowd), and a punctuating musical performance from Doja Cat.
If this year’s upfronts were marked by instability and a lack of star power, YouTube delivered what it always does with Brandcast: A straightforward pitch, music, and star creators (even Mr. Beast, the platform’s biggest star with more than 150 million subscribers, made a cameo via video).
After Doja Cat left the stage, attendees exited onto Lincoln Center’s iconic central plaza, where YouTube constructed bars and food stations around the fountain.
It was a pitch that was uniquely YouTube, with an NFL angle all its own, practical connected TV products that put it on par with other streaming giants, and a focus on AI that suggests, as YouTube CEO Neal Mohan told the crowd, “will change the landscape for years to come.”
Whether or not the traditional studios embrace AI, YouTube is clearly going all-in.
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