YouTube Sells Ads on “Hundreds of Millions of Video Views” Per Month; Adds AdSense to Content ID

Michael Learmonth over at Ad Age managed to get a couple of pointers out of YouTube (s GOOG) about its ad-selling efforts. According to YouTube product management director Shishir Mehrotra, the site is selling ads against “hundreds of millions of video views” per month, a number he described as more views than its nearest competitor, Fox Interactive, even has per month.

picture-22Using those clues, the scrappy Learmonth turned to comScore’s February numbers, which had Fox Interactive (s NWS) at 463 million U.S. views, or 8.7 percent of YouTube’s 5.3 billion. Therefore, his best guess is that YouTube is selling ads on at least 9 percent of its video views in the U.S.

A spokesperson for YouTube would only tell us that it doesn’t think a percent is a meaningful measure (I disagree!), and echoed Mehrotra’s comment to Learmonth that outside estimates of YouTube monetizing 3-4 percent of video views are “grossly inaccurate.”

Also today, YouTube made an attempt to amp up partner revenues from “claimed content.” To date, partners could use YouTube’s Content ID program to find unauthorized uploads of their content, and then they could elect to show banner and display ads alongside the uploads rather than taking them down. As of today, as TechCrunch reported, YouTube is now also rolling out contextually targeted text ad overlays (aka AdSense for Video) on those videos (see the YouTube-provided screenshot above).

Contextual text ads result in better click-through rates than display ads, said YouTube, so the thought is that the site’s 600-plus Content ID users will rake in more dough.

The AdSense for Video ads are targeted based on user-inputted text and metadata about each video. My concern would be that user uploads don’t necessarily have great metadata, especially since users sometimes try to obfuscate titles to keep them from being taken down. A YouTube spokesperson said he thought users were more interested in having their content found than keeping it away from the copyright police.

Just in case it needs to be said, the AdSense for Video initiative won’t affect calculations of what percent of video views are being monetized; it will only provide incremental revenue on already-monetized videos. However, if it’s tremendously successful, it could help convince more publishers to join the Content ID program.

A recent Credit Suisse report projected that YouTube would generate $240 million in revenue this year, but those revenues would be overshadowed by an expected $711 million in expenses. Screen Digest predicted YouTube would only take in $120 million in revenue this year.