A Brief Conversation with Google's Director of TV Advertising

Last night I moderated a panel for the International Radio and Television Society (IRTS) called "Traditional media meets the digital challenge." Among the panelists was Michael Steib, who recently left NBCU -- where he founded NBBC -- for Google, where he is the director of television advertising.

Steib, having only been at Google for two months, pleaded ignorance about many particulars of Google's TV plans or YouTube strategy. But he did have some thoughtful responses to my questions, natch, which I've paraphrased below. I don't have written notes, so I'm recalling from memory.

On the News Corp./NBC distribution plan
Doesn't think that consumers are ready to watch full-length, ad-supported shows on their computer monitors yet. Says he never heard the term "Clown Co." inside Google before the LA Times article.

On why YouTube is a very, very good distribution outlet for networks
Because the network's own sites don't get that much traffic and they're hard to use. Comedy Central's Motherload, he said, can only keep content up for a limited time due to licensing and promotional agreements with producers, ASCAP, other entities. (I imagine that's one reason why Viacom is a little peeved at YouTube.) YouTube, meanwhile, streams 200 million vids and traffic went up after Viacom pulled their videos.

On ubiquitous content
Steib said he doesn't think YouTube has a single exclusive agreement with a content owner. CBS, for example, has content on YouTube, Innertube, iTunes.

On the likelihood of Google licensing content direct from producers
Probably not. Studios that produce shows have complicated licensing and distribution deals with the networks that aren't easily changed to accommodate a search engine. (I argued yesterday that Google wouldn't license content directly because it's not as efficient a business plan.)

On their current TV ad experiment in California
Can't comment specifically. Said that parts of the Wall Street Journal's article was wrong. (Par for the course when asking executives about an article, though.)
On the limits of online advertising
It's not a panacea for all marketing woes. Some products work better than others, and just because online advertising is hot doesn't mean offline doesn't work well, too. McDonald's, he said, sold about 300 million (billion?) hamburgers before AdWords was invented. Hence, Google's efforts to enter offline ad markets.