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Pre-roll Ads Could Send YouTubers Running

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YouTube is Google’s new big stick, but the used-to-be-a-search company better learn to walk softly or lose the droves of devoted viewers. A new poll from Harris Interactive shows that while nearly a third of YouTube users are sacrificing TV time for online video, almost three-quarters of them won’t take kindly to pre-roll advertisements.

But Google, historically with its ducks in a cleaner row than its competitors, may already know that, considering its recent experiments with mid-roll skipable ads on Google Video. That may be the route the company plans to take with YouTube to soften the loyalist purist aversion to commercial video – that, and the potential to share the wealth.

Even then, it may be that YouTube users talk a big game but won’t actually abandon their beloved over it – when Paris Hilton set up a channel to promote her video, spittle-mouthed protests careened over the comments sections begging the site operators not to dirty their purer, and user-centric, video playground.

After all, the public did forgive cable companies eventually for not delivering on ad-free subscription TV. To quote Stephen King, “everything’s eventual.”

About 32 percent of respondents to Harris’ poll said they watch less TV as a result of YouTube, but that love isn’t unconditional. Seventy-three percent say they would visit the site less if pre-roll video ads started popping up before every clip. If good on their word, that represents 42 percent of online adults overall that visit the site.

It’s not just TV, respondents are choosing YouTube over other things too: other websites (36%); email and social networking (20%); work/homework (19%); playing video games (15%); and watching DVDs (12%). And just wait until you hear someone’s wife on Oprah complain her husband chooses YouTube over her. Twelve percent prefer YouTube over family and friends.

In all, two thirds said they sacrificed other activities to watch amateur silliness. Let the interventions begin.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that users are choosing YouTube over TV network sites, though. Forty-one percent say they’ve watched a video at a TV network site, compared to 42 percent of the rest. And, perhaps by conditioning, they are more tolerant of pre-roll ads at those network sites.

“Indeed, we have seen in previous data that consumers as a rule are not averse to watching commercials online in order to catch an episode of a TV show they would otherwise miss,” said Aongus Burke, Senior Research Manager of Harris Interactive’s Media & Entertainment Practice.

“Yet those who are accustomed to finding and watching everything for free at YouTube may have developed a very different set of expectations for the site.”

Pre-roll, post-roll, mid-roll, it probably won’t matter to advertisers because YouTube hits exactly the right demographic. Usage is greatest among the hardest-to-reach through TV demographic. More than three-quarters (76%) of males 18-24 say they have watched a YouTube video, and 41 percent say they visit frequently.

“We know from some of our other data on teens that YouTube is just as popular with them as it is with young adults,” said Burke. “It has really emerged as a major force in, and problem for, the traditional entertainment industry.

“Not only is YouTube using a lot of their own content to steal the eyeballs they want the most, the site has provided a launching pad to wholly new forms of user-generated video entertainment that are gaining popularity quickly.”

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Pre-roll Ads Could Send YouTubers Running
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