YouTube Starts Giving Watchers Ad Choices

YouTube (s GOOG) is running a test on some of its premium content that gives users the choice to either front-load their ad-watching with a single full-length promoted video or stick to midstream ads at intervals throughout.

User Choice Screenshot

For instance, some watchers of a 20-minute-long episode of Lionsgate’s Alf (see screenshot) have the option of watching a 1:23 ad for Target, a 34-second ad for Tampax, or four normal (usually 15- or 30-second) commercial breaks.

Choosing between ads doesn’t just make viewers feel empowered — it’s also good for advertisers. Just figuring out that equation (how to minimize commercial time) probably draws more viewer attention to in-stream ads than they might ever receive. And the test puts a lot more value in promoted videos, which are normally featured around the edges of the viewing experience, such as next to search results. Now promoted video buyers are effectively buying pre-rolls.

The idea isn’t novel, but it’s a good one. Hulu has from early on experimented with user choice about ads, for instance, giving viewers of its films an option to watch movie previews instead of regular mid-roll ads. One day last week, Microsoft (s MSFT) bought out the site with a “Bing-a-thon” promotion for its relaunched search that made the rest of Hulu ad-free for watchers. And Tremor Media earlier this month launched an ad format called V-Choice which allows publishers to give their viewers options about what ads to watch.