YouTube Guns for Broadcasters at Glitzy NewFronts Presentation

Getty Images/Courtesy of Youtube

"At a time when TV networks are losing audiences, YouTube is growing in every region and across every screen," CEO Susan Wojcicki said at Brandcast.

YouTube pulled no punches during its star-studded event Thursday pitching advertisers: The streamer is gunning for television viewers.

The Google-owned company — considered the standard bearer in viewing videos online —  boasted that more 18-to-49 year olds log on to YouTube during primetime hours than watch all of the top 10 television shows combined. And YouTube executives hope to lure advertisers trying to reach that key demographic.

YouTube's connection to millennial viewers was on full display for the 2,700 people that packed into New York's Javits Center for the annual NewFronts event. The audience was treated to a cavalcade of online stars -— from Lilly Singh, who hosted, to Big Bird dancing to hip-hop music and introducing a new Sesame Street channel for YouTube Kids. There was also a surprise performance from Silentó, who sang the song "Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)," the music video that was the No. 1 video on YouTube last year.

"At a time when TV networks are losing audiences, YouTube is growing in every region and across every screen," CEO Susan Wojcicki told the audience of brand advertisers. (A group of 100 top YouTubers also lined the first few rows). 

During the event, which is traditionally devoid of much news, Wojcicki did announce that YouTube is expanding its Google Preferred advertising offering. The updated service, which for the last two years has allowed brands to buy ads around the top 5 percent of YouTube content, now also gives them the opportunity to buy ads around "breakout videos," or some of the most viral videos on the platform. Google Preferred has also proven a boon to YouTube's business. Wojcicki said the number of advertisers buying Google Preferred in the U.S. has almost doubled, and that it raised the intent to purchase in two-thirds of campaigns. 

NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who took the stage during the event, explained that basketball has a large international audience on YouTube and the Golden State Warriors' Steph Curry is the most popular athlete on the streamer. "We firmly believe that the businesses that will be the most popular globally tomorrow are those that are the most popular on social media today," said Silver.

Attendees did get a bit of a scare midway through the show when the fire alarm went off. While several people headed for the door, guests were ultimately told it was a "false alarm" and the presentation continued. 

After the main show, guests were treated to dinner from some of YouTube's top food channels. Sia was expected to take the stage for a performance later in the evening.