YouTube Content Chief Responds to Digital Measurement Critiques, Touts Diverse Programming Slate

Susanne Daniels_Vidcon - H 2016
Natalie Jarvey

Susanne Daniels_Vidcon - H 2016

It was the Google-owned streamer's first TCA appearance.

Susanne Daniels made her return to the semi-annual Television Critics Association's press tour on Friday, but this time as a digital executive. And as the new content chief at YouTube, she had a few comments to make about how TV audiences are measured. 

YouTube did not plan an executive session with Daniels during the morning event, but critics managed to lob a few questions her way in the midst of panels with some of YouTube's creators.

One question touched on Daniels' prepared comments that during her time at MTV the largest audience she had for an episode of TV was 3 million, and now she works for a company with 1 billion monthly viewers. She was asked if, since YouTube measures viewers differently than Nielsen measures TV viewers, there needs to be a more fair measurement system put in place to account for those differences.

"There needs to be as accurate a system as possible," Daniels, also a veteran of Lifetime and The WB, responded. "I was never happy with Nielsens when I was at the network, so I don't think there's a great system anywhere. But we do know that, I forget what the number was, 4 million people watched the pilot of Foursome from AwesomenessTV. We can track exactly what people are doing, so I don't think it could get fairer than what we're reporting for YouTube." 

She was pressed to respond to the critique that views are counted after watching a video for 30 seconds. FX, for example, released research last spring that said if The People v. O.J. Simpson had been measured like BuzzFeed's exploding watermelon video on Facebook, which counts views after just three seconds, it would have more than 200 billion views. "I'm not sure I agree with [FX president] John Landgraf," said Daniels. "I respect John Landgraf and like John Landgraf, but I'm not sure that's true."

Daniels was hired last summer to develop a programming slate for YouTube's subscription streaming service, Red, and in February debuted the first batch of projects, all movies or series fronted by YouTube stars. Her comments came as part of the 90 minute-long TCA event in which YouTube execs were tasked with explaining how the streaming service is approaching content and showcasing the influence of their homegrown stars. YouTube played it safe in their first TCA appearance, keeping the event short and flying through panels — which featured the stars of documentary film Vlogumentary, series Single by 30 and comedy Buddy System — that were moderated by Daniels and allowed for only a small number of questions from critics. 

The presentation also featured prepared remarks from Daniels and YouTube chief business officer Robert Kyncl. Both speeches served as primers on YouTube and its young, millennial audience.

Daniels also used the platform to tout the streamer's commitment to showcasing more diverse creators as Hollywood continues to struggle with representation on screen. "I know Hollywood continues to talk about how to bring more diverse faces to the screen," she said. "I'm proud to say that YouTube more broadly, as well as our YouTube Red originals, is already delivering on that promise, showcasing a broad range of genres and giving voice to a diverse universe of creators — creators who represent all walks of life, offer fresh perspectives and above all deliver great storytelling."