YouTube TV Is Taking Over the World Series Again With AR Ads and That Infamous Red Play Button

Partnership is likely to ignite another heated debate among viewers

Fox inserted augmented reality ads for YouTube TV on screen before the first pitch and during the seventh-inning stretch. YouTube TV
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For the second year, YouTube TV will be taking over the World Series with a partnership that is likely to ignite another heated debate among viewers, as it did in 2017. The live TV streaming service is once again the presenting sponsor of the “World Series presented by YouTube TV,” which kicks off Tuesday night and will be blanketing the telecast with a number of in-game spots, traditional ads and in-stadium branding.

Last year’s YouTube TV-World Series partnership was groundbreaking, but controversial: NBC Sports called the “presented by” arrangement the moment when “the advertising Rubicon was crossed,” but YouTube TV said it resulted in big signup increases and brand awareness lifts. So the company doubled down on it in March, signing an expanded two-year deal with Major League Baseball under which it would “present” the World Series through 2019.

During this year’s matchup between the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers, Fox will insert augmented reality ads for YouTube TV that will appear onscreen before the the first pitch and around the seventh-inning stretch. In both instances, the YouTube TV spot will appear to be broadcast from the stadium’s video screen.

YouTube TV spots will also appear in double-box ads during pivotal World Series moments like pitching changes and if any game goes into extra innings.

In 2017, the then-fledgling streaming service was focused on raising awareness. “The first year was, OK, here’s what it is, and this year, we want to celebrate what it delivers, which is more of what you love,” said Angela Courtin, global head of entertainment, media and experience at YouTube marketing.

They’ll do that with a 90-second “Watch Like a Fan” spot airing before Game 1’s first pitch. Narrated by Mila Kunis, the ad features moments from Fox, FX, Fox Sports and National Geographic programing available on YouTube TV intercut with footage of viewers watching those shows and reacting to them.

The spot “is a love letter to our fans and fans of TV,” said Courtin, who sees it as a counterpoint to the “Better Ruins Everything” campaign from Hulu, one of YouTube TV’s competitors.

“The idea of ‘ruining TV’ is one thing. We want to celebrate our subscribers and the power that sports and TV has to bring people together, to elevate mood and excitement and deepen love and engagement,” Courtin said.

The double-box ads will enable YouTube to “wrap our brand and some of the things that are special about YouTube TV into the context of that moment,” Courtin said. “So a pitching change may talk about maybe it’s time for your own changeup and what that could be in terms of a new provider. We’re leaning heavily into context.”

Such interruptions, which will appear “side-to-side with the broadcast of the game,” might seem intrusive. However, Courtin stressed, they are “never taking you away from what you love, but creating perhaps a better way to enjoy that through YouTube TV.”

YouTube TV isn’t sure how often those double-box ads will run. “This is going to be driven by the game itself. It’s a bit risky in terms of the strategy,” said Courtin, who said her team looked at game footage to “understand the natural rhythm of the game and how you can marry context to those special moments. So we created several iterations and handed them over to our very competent partners over at Fox and said, ‘Let’s just run them as they occur.’ We’re leaning on fate and a great partnership with Fox.”

And yes, this World Series will bring back the YouTube TV ad placement behind home plate, which generated controversy last year, as the red “play” button in the middle of the screen made some viewers feel as if they were watching a YouTube video.

Viewers will “definitely” see that in Dodger Stadium during Games 3-5, “where that play button lines up beautifully in terms of center screen,” Courtin said. “We want to make sure that we never distract from the game, that we only enhance it.”

In another element of the partnership, two YouTube creators, Guava Juice and Team Edge, faced off in a baseball-themed competition that depended on “attention and engagement” from their respective fans. The winner will throw out the first pitch in Game 4.

YouTube TV will also hand out real-time YouTube TV Fan Awards during each game to fans who are “celebrating and amplifying” the company’s “Watch like a fan” messaging, Courtin said. “People are always recording themselves watching content. So we’re going to be asking our audience to share with us those moments that they experience throughout the series, and we will be celebrating those.”

@jasonlynch Jason Lynch is TV/Media Editor at Adweek, overseeing trends, technology, personalities and programming across broadcast, cable and streaming video.