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YouTube to advertisers: You need us to attract a younger crowd

Google executives say the site is a key way to reach 18- to 34-year-olds, but it didn't announce any major partnerships or revolutionary new programming during an event in New York.

Robert Kyncl, global head of content for YouTube, talked up the company's user numbers to attract advertisers during its Newfront event Wednesday in New York. Shara Tibken/CNET
NEW YORK--Google on Wednesday made its pitch for advertising on YouTube, telling companies that the site is a vital way to reach the highly desired 18- to 34-year-old demographic and a way to build a base of loyal fans.

However, the company didn't announce any new major projects or partnerships. Instead, executives positioned YouTube as hip and in tune with what younger viewers desire -- something it said its online rivals and traditional cable networks lack. And it noted that the transition to online viewing has already happened.

"The future is already here," Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said as he kicked off an event for advertisers and brands on Wednesday at Pier 36 on Manhattan's Lower East Side. "Video is becoming the global shared experience."

Executives said during the event that more than one billion unique monthly visitors are watching more than 6 billion hours of video on YouTube every month. For a little perspective, that's equal to nearly 684,000 years of viewing -- or -- an hour a month for every human on Earth. And it's an increase from January's level of 4 billion hours of video watched per month.

A good portion of those viewers are part of what YouTube called "Generation C" -- consumers who grew up with the Internet and are always connected.

"If you want to win with that under 40 generation, you've got to be on YouTube," Margo Georgiadis, president of the Americas for YouTube, said.

YouTube's pitch was part of the Digital NewFronts, a spin on the traditional upfronts where media companies pitch their newest TV shows to advertisers. Digital media companies are seeking to nab a bigger portion of ad spending in a time more content is moving online. Along with YouTube, many other companies such as AOL and CBS Interactive, which owns CNET, held their own events this week.

Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt talks up the company's vision for online video Wednesday in New York during YouTube's Newfront event for advertisers. Shara Tibken/CNET

All of these companies, along with Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and many others, are vying for viewers online, and original programming is one way they're attracting consumers. Netflix's "House of Cards" series has proved popular, and the company will follow with other programs such as a new season of "Arrested Development.

YouTube, known for its user-provided video clips, also has pushed to include more curated, premium content on its platform. It has launched dozens of funded channels as part of its initiative to bring original, higher quality content to YouTube. The company last month said it will launch a series of theme weeks to showcase its premium channels, starting with YouTube Comedy Weekfrom May 19 to 25.

YouTube's event for advertisers and brands on Wednesday included stars of some of the more popular YouTube shows, such as Felicia Day from "Geek & Sundry," as well as music acts such as Snoop Lion (formerly Snoop Dogg) and Macklemore.

The company didn't discuss any revolutionary changes to the site or its programming, but it highlighted the success of some of its current popular channels and shared details about their planned programming. One, AwesomenessTV, has been successful targeting the teenage demographic. DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg took the stage to announce that his company earlier on Wednesday reached a deal to acquire AwesomenessTV.

Snoop Lion, formerly Snoop Dogg, performs at YouTube's event Wednesday in New York. Shara Tibken/CNET

"The essence of media is shortform, coming in bits, bites, snacks," Katzenberg said. "Today's acquisition puts us in the middle of this new arena... We see an incredible array of opportunities."

YouTube executives, meanwhile, urged brands -- and even sought the help of "kid president" -- to buy media on the site, sponsor programs, and build their own channels. And they argued there's a real business case for doing so, with a study showing that brands that invest about 10 percent to 15 percent of their media budget on YouTube post a 1 percent to 3 percent sales lift.

The 100 largest brands in the world are actively spending money on YouTube, executives said.

"We find ourselves in the middle of an incredible momentum," Robert Kyncl, global head of content for YouTube, said at the event Wednesday. "And we believe the momentum will continue. Why? There's an insatiable appetite for online video, and that appetite is our opportunity."