Sky isn’t the limit when it comes to YouTube

HBO also uploading free content to reach other viewers

So HBO and now Sky are on YouTube. It's not so much a truce as a you scratch my back I'll scratch yours acceptance by TV networks that the video streaming service reaches places traditional media simply can't. On Saturday, Sky will launch its first YouTube channel, Sky First Episodes, which is free to watch.

This past year has seen a major investment by Sky in drama and first episodes of Moone Boy, The Tunnel, A Young Doctor's Notebook and Moonfleet will be put up on YouTube as extended tasters. The simple idea is that if viewers like what they see they might be encouraged to subscribe to Sky see more.

A first episode will not be uploaded until 10-15 days after it airs on TV giving paying customers a considerable amount of time to see it – either when it's repeated, and Sky is never afraid to repeat a programme, or on the broadcaster's app (there have been, according to Sky 500,000 downloads of the app in Ireland) or with its catch-up facility. "We will not be cannibalising our content," said Mark Anderson, director of sales and marketing explaining the 10-15 day time lag.

He says the YouTube plan has been in the pipeline for 18 months, developed as an opportunity to “reach out to other market segments”.


But isn’t Sky worried that viewers, having watched a first episode on YouTube will then hunt around the web for a pirated copy of the rest of the series? “Piracy isn’t a major issue for us,” says Anderson.

Marketing push
This weekend sees the start of a major marketing push (Sky's advertising budget for Ireland was €10 million last year) across all media. It was created by UK agency Inferno & DraftFCB with media planning and buying by MediaCom.

Continuing the taster theme the TV campaign will feature short clips of the top shows from the four entertainment channels, Sky 1, Sky Atlantic, Sky Arts and Sky Living. It has been localised for an Irish audience or as Anderson puts it: "we'll be heroing Moone Boy" – the award-winning Chris O'Dowd comedy which returns for a second series on Sky One on February 17th .

Sky's YouTube taster strategy is similar, but not as aggressive as HBO's marketing push for Girls, the Lena Dunham cult comedy which kicked off its third series this month.

Twelve hours after it premiered in the US on HBO, the pay-to-view station released the first two episodes free to watch on YouTube.

That decision was a pragmatic one, showing an acceptance by HBO that the audience for Girls, predominantly urban women in their 20s and 30s expect to get their information online, and that it's hard to reach that demographic by traditional marketing. HBO's "social first" policy behind Girls included a mix of online platforms from a Snapchat account to tweets from the characters, as well as Tumblr and Facebook and Instagram updates.

By comparison, the Sky First Episode YouTube taster offering seems like a tentative dip in the water.

Deep pockets
The YouTube-TV traffic isn't one way. The biggest annual TV event in the US is on Sunday when the Seattle Seahawks take on the Denver Broncos in the Super Bowl.

For advertisers with deep pockets ($4 million buys 30 seconds of ad break) it's a chance to strut their stuff and as usual the astonishingly good ads feature a roster of big name stars including Scarlett Johannson for SodaStream, Ellen DeGeneres for Beats and Stephen Colbert for pistachios.

The Bank of America's 60 second ad sees U2 premiering a new song Invisible which will be available free to download during the game and for the next day. The bank will donate $1 (up to $2 million) for every download to the U2-supported HIV/Aids charity, Red.

To get in on the Super Bowl buzz, chip away at the TV dominance, and start the ad-going-viral momentum that's now such a feature of Super Bowl advertising, YouTube has set up a hub at (a boon for ad watchers outside the US) where some advertisers have posted taster previews: Arnold Schwarzenegger in a wig playing table tennis for Budweiser, the quirky algorithm ad from Volkswagen and the Axe male body spray with dictators turning to love are worth a watch.