Reflections from Edinburgh TV Festival: Bringing Advertisers to the front line of a Content Revolution

Rich Waterworth / September 2017

Two weeks ago, thousands of brands and advertisers flocked to The Edinburgh International TV Festival. YouTube has been the proud sponsor of the festival for six years, and each year brings fresh and fascinating perspectives across the broadcasting industry.

The purpose of the festival is to “[bring] together all parts of the television and digital world to celebrate the creativity, diversity and inspirational talent in media content, and to debate the major issues facing the industry,” and more than ever, we believe it’s hugely valuable to bring advertisers to the front line of these conversations.

“Edinburgh is always a good moment to reflect on the incredible creative energy in the sector as well as the remarkable pace of change in content creation and viewer behaviour”

– Rich Waterworth, Director of YouTube Marketing, EMEA


Amongst the wonderful creativity on show from the UK and global broadcasters, production companies and digital players, we saw three trends emerge from this year’s festival.

1. Technology driving new and exciting viewing experiences

Many of the most exciting viewing experiences are being enhanced by technology – and we were reminded at Edinburgh that this isn’t a new phenomenon. With the peerless Sir David Attenborough’s session looking back over 60 years of the BBC’s natural history unit, including remarkable technical innovation from the first colour natural history pictures broadcast in 1963 to the production marvels of Planet Earth and Planet Earth 2.

Beyond this, the meteoric growth in mobile consumption shows no sign of slowing, and is driving some fascinating experimentation and trends, from vertical video to mobile live streaming and even 360 degree viewing.

And I for one, saw the future back in June, when BT Sport broadcast the Champions League final live in 360 and VR via YouTube and in the BT Sport Virtual reality app. All the better for admiring the full sweep of Ronaldo’s genius in a stunning victory for Real Madrid.

2. Global audience scale creating new content ‘Super-Brands’

The story of how the team behind The Ellen Show turned a daytime chat show into a true global super-brand with 20 million YouTube subscribers from all over the world is remarkable – and we’re seeing this more often. James Corden, John Oliver, Graham Norton, Jimmy Kimmel... the list of TV talent and brands that are massively expanding their reach and engagement with global audiences via YouTube goes on and on.

A different take on this, comes in the shape of Dan & Phil. The extraordinary duo who have built a global fanbase of over 16 million subscribers across five YouTube channels – also fuelling a sold out global theatre tour, DJ slots on Radio 1, book deals and more. Dan and Phil sat down with one of the nation’s favourites, Sue Perkins, to share their journey, the secrets of their giant success and building an incredible community around the world. This truly is the dawn of the global content; cue the ‘super-brand’.

3. We all need to embrace and reflect diverse voices and social change

Jon Snow’s Mactaggart Lecture was heartfelt and poignant, and called out the critical importance of representing and giving a voice to all parts of society. We were proud to bring Humza Arshad to speak with YouTube’s own Director of Diversity Marketing, Oona King, for a conversation that built on some of the themes Jon laid down in his lecture.

Humza is an Ambassador for our YouTube Creators for Change program. He uses his channel as a platform to connect with young people around complex and sensitive issues including the dangers of extremism. Humza has reached thousands young people across the UK with his school tours, has nearly half a million subscribers to his YouTube channel and has a brilliant new comedy series, Coconut, on BBC 3 too.

Another great example is Casey Neistat’s Beme acquisition by CNN and Vice News’ remarkable documentary from Charlottesville. We’re seeing the raw power of the diverse and authentic voices being supercharged by their platforms, while connecting them with global audiences.

In summary plus highlights

Creativity is celebrated at Cannes. Creators are celebrated at VidCon. Content is celebrated at The Edinburgh International TV Festival. Edinburgh is always a good moment to reflect on the incredible creative energy in the sector as well as the remarkable pace of change in content creation and viewer behaviour.

Understanding how new technology shifts – multi-screen viewership, 360/VR, and now even vertical video – has changed the how, where, and when audiences access content. It’s crucial to the survival of brands, and to make sure they stay relevant.

Speaking of relevancy, audiences are not just choosing to watch passive or mindless entertainment. They’re actively seeking out a laugh from a global super-brand like the Ellen Show – or they’re seeking out stories of local heros like Humza, who are using their platforms to promote and amplify good. These stories are stitching the fabric of our modern culture, and advertisers can learn a lot about their audiences, and how to communicate, by putting themselves at the heart of this exciting evolution in content.

Check out all the sessions on Edinburgh TV Festival official YouTube channel and we’ve shared our highlights below:

Watch: From Daytime Show to Global brand: The secrets of the Ellen Degeneres Show

The creative minds behind the Ellen Show, David McGuire and Daniel Leary, joined UK journalist and presenter, Rick Edwards, for a YouTube masterclass.

They revealed how YouTube has played a critical role in the show’s success and global expansion, and discussed the intersection of TV and YouTube: “TV is one planet, YT is another planet, but they work off each other. It’s holistic, it’s one team.”

Highlighting how their channel has unlocked a global audience, new content formats and talent, they added: “YouTube was seen as a promotion by everyone else. We saw the value (of YouTube) to expand our audience in the States and internationally.”

Watch: A Baroness and a Badman: Oona King in conversation with Humza Arshad

Ben Cooper, Controller of BBC Radio 1, chaired a conversation with Oona King and Humza Arshad as they discussed talent, diversity and how to stay fresh and inclusive in today’s media landscape.

Watch: The Great YouTube Take Off: Dan & Phil talk with Sue Perkins

One half of TV’s most-loved double acts had a punchy conversation with one of gen-YouTube’s biggest pairings. Dan & Phil shared their wisdom on how to engage young audiences and what it’s like being your own writers, editors and commissioners. They talked about how the wall between TV and YouTube is becoming more “porous” and the infrastructure and experts within traditional media offer an opportunity for YouTube creators to hone their craft.

Record-breaker: This session broke Edinburgh TV Festival’s YouTube channel records as one of the most viewed talks from the festival.

Everything starts with a Search: A view from Ronan Harris, MD of Google UK & Ireland