YouTube was launched in 2005. It was founded by three PayPal employees: Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim, who ran the company from a (de rigueur) small office above a small restaurant in a small Californian city.
From these humble beginnings, YouTube has gone on to become one of the world’s most ubiquitous apps – the natural home of the short-video format so prevalent in today’s media landscape.
The first video uploaded to the platform was “Me at the zoo”, featuring Karim. Today, he has plenty of company. 500 hours of content are uploaded to the platform every minute (much of it, no doubt, more inspiring than Karim’s discovery than elephants have trunks).
YouTube did not stay small for long. By the end of the year, kingmakers Sequoia Capital had invested $3.5 million, followed by another $8 million alongside Artis Capital Management in early 2006. Venture capital was not the only source of interest in the company: in late 2006, Google, no less, came knocking. $1.65 billion in stock later, YouTube was a Google property.
Time would include YouTube on its person of the year cover the same year. The person in question was ‘you’ – specifically content creators – with the cover incorporating a mirror, rather than YouTube itself. The choice of YouTube, however was not insignificant – cementing the young platform’s place as the place where independent content creators could share their work with the world.
YouTube achieved this status, and has managed to retain it, through the introduction of a range of innovative features to serve creators and users alike. Viewer ratings, below-the-line comments, easy-to-use embed functionality, livestreaming, content algorithms, and voice recognition rank among those which have helped it retain its edge.
While it certainly has remained a bastion of user-created content, with many internet celebrities rising to fame through YouTube channels (PewDiePie is perhaps the best known, as well one of the most controversial/unsavoury), YouTube has come to serve a far wider demographic of content creators. Brands utilise the platform for marketing, media outlets to host video output, musicians and labels to release music; it has even played a part in hosting debates during US presidential elections.
Users can rent feature films, listen to music using the specialised YouTube Music service, or subscribe to YouTube Premium, which allows to access to original content and ad-free viewing, or YouTube Music Premium. More on those ads below, but suffice to say the world’s biggest content platforms (and, it can be argued, social media platforms) is prime ad real estate.
It’s not just YouTube that profits; this YouTube ad revenue is shared with top content creators – a (very) small proportion of which can make a healthy income through the platform. Top-performing creators even get a preferential cut.
So, what are the most popular videos on YouTube? How many people use it regularly? Who are YouTube’s top earners?
Find out the answers to these questions below, alongside a raft of other YouTube data and statistics.
Table of Contents
|Parent company||Google (since October 2006)|
|HQ||San Bruno, California|
|Key people||Susan Wojcicki (CEO), Chad Hurley (cofounder), Steve Chen (cofounder), Jawed Karim (cofounder)|
|Company type||Public (NASDAQ:GOOGL)|
|IPO date||19 August 2004|
Key YouTube User and Usage Stats
|Total YouTube MAU|
|January 2012||800 million|
|March 2013||1 billion|
|June 2017||1.5 billion|
|July 2019||1.9 billion|
|May 2019||2 billion|
|YouTube US penetration by age*|
*as of Q3 2019
|YouTube viewers in India|
|YouTube viewers, millions||Percentage of digital video viewers|
|Weekly US YouTube music usage*|
* Measures percentage of US users who use YouTube to listen to music on a weekly basis
** as of July 2020
Source: Edison Research
|US YouTube share of ear*|
*YouTube percentage share of total audio time
Source: Edison Research
Key YouTube Content and Influencer Stats
|Most-viewed YouTube videos, July 2020|
|Artist/Creator||Video||Views (billions)||Release date (M/Y)|
|Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yanky||Despacito||6.87||01/17|
|Pinkfork||Baby Shark Dance||6.07||06/16|
|Ed Sheeran||Shape of You||4.9||01/17|
|Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth||See You Again||4.65||04/15|
|Get Movies||Masha and the Bear – Recipe for Disaster||4.32||01/12|
|Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars||Uptown Funk||3.9||11/14|
|LooLoo Kids||Johny Johny Yes Papa||3.6||10/16|
|Miroshka TV||Learning Colors – Colorful Eggs on a Farm||3.56||01/15|
|Ed Sheeran||Thinking Out Loud||3.04||08/14|
|Taylor Swift||Shake It Off||2.94||08/14|
|Enrique Iglesias ft. Descemer Bueno, Gente de Zona||Bailando||2.88||04/14|
|Major Lazer, DJ Snake ft. MØ||Lean On||2.85||03/14|
|ChuChu TV||Phonics Songs with Two Words||2.83||02/14|
|Katy Perry ft. Juicy J||Dark Horse||2.82||02/14|
|Most-subscribed YouTube channels, July 2020*|
|Channel||Content type||Subscribers (millions)||Language|
|Cocomelon – Nursery Rhymes||Kids’||88||English|
|Canal KondZilla||Music (label)||59||Portuguese|
|Zee Music Company||Music (curation)||58||Hindi|
|✿ Kids Diana Show||Kids’/Influencer||58||English|
|Justin Bieber||Music (artist)||55||English|
|Vlad and Niki||Kids’/Influencer||46||English|
|Ed Sheeran||Music (artist)||45||English|
|Eminem Music||Music (artist)||44||English|
|Ariana Grande||Music (artist)||42||English|
*not including YouTube category channels: YouTube Movies (119 million), Music (112 million), Gaming (86 million), Sports (75 million).
Source: Social Blade
|Most-viewed YouTube channels, July 2020|
|Channel||Content type||Views (billions)||Language|
|Cocomelon – Nursery Rhymes||Kids’||69||English|
|El Reino Infantil||Kids’||31||Spanish|
|Canal KondZilla||Music (label)||30||Portuguese|
|✿ Kids Diana Show||Kids’/Influencer||29||English|
|Zee Music Company||Music (curation)||27||Hindi|
|Little Baby Bum||Kids’||27||English|
|Masha and the Bear (Маша и Медведь)||Kids’||24||Russian|
|Wave Music||Music (curation)||23||Bhojpuri|
Source: Social Blade
|Most viewed YouTube videos over 24 hours|
|Artist/Creator||Video||Views (millions)||Release date (MM/YY)|
|Paramount Pictures||Rings (2017) – TV Store Prank||200+||01/17|
|Blackpink||How You Like That||86||06/20|
|BTS ft. Haley||Boy with Luv||75||04/19|
|Taylor Swift ft. Brendon Urie||Me!||65||04/19|
|Blackpink||Kill This Love||57||04/19|
|Ariana Grande||Thank U, Next||55||11/18|
|Chewbacca Mask Lady||Candance Payne||50||05/16|
|Fastest music videos to 1 billion views on YouTube*|
|Artist||Video||Days to 1 billion views|
|Luis Fonsi ft Daddy Yankee||Despacito||96.5|
|Ed Sheeran||Shape of You||97.4|
|J Balvin, Willy William||Mi Gente||102.7|
|Luis Fonsi, Demi Lovato||Échame La Culpa||110.7|
|DJ Snake ft. Selena Gomez, Ozuna, Cardi B||Taki Taki||115.1|
|Casper, Nio García, Darell, Nicky Jam, Bad Bunny, Ozuna||Te Bote Remix||119.0|
|Nicky Jam, J Balvin||X (EQUIS)||124.9|
|Maroon 5 ft. Cardi B||Girls Like You||129.0|
*Not including kids’ content
|Fastest music videos to 2 billion views on YouTube*|
|Artist||Video||Days to 2 billion views|
|Luis Fonsi ft Daddy Yankee||Despacito||154.4|
|Ed Sheeran||Shape of You||187.2|
|Maroon 5 ft. Cardi B||Girls Like You||293.2|
|J Balvin, Willy William||Mi Gente||433.0|
|Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth||See You Again||515.2|
|The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey||Closer||555.2|
|Casper, Nio García, Darell, Nicky Jam, Bad Bunny, Ozuna||Te Bote Remix||604.3|
*Not including kids’ content
|Fastest music videos to 3 billion views on YouTube*|
|Artist||Video||Days to 3 billion views|
|Luis Fonsi ft Daddy Yankee||Despacito||203.3|
|Ed Sheeran||Shape of You||342.2|
|Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth||See You Again||851.7|
|Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars||Uptown Funk||1226.8|
|Ed Sheeran||Thinking Out Loud||2060.8|
*Not including kids’ content
|Fastest music videos to 4 billion views on YouTube*|
|Artist||Video||Days to 4 billion views|
|Luis Fonsi ft Daddy Yankee||Despacito||271.4|
|Ed Sheeran||Shape of You||707.6|
|Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth||See You Again||1402.2|
*Not including kids’ content
|Fastest music videos to 5 billion views on YouTube*|
|Artist||Video||Days to 5 billion views|
|Luis Fonsi ft Daddy Yankee||Despacito||446.6|
*Not including kids’ content
|Fastest music videos to 6 billion views on YouTube*|
|Artist||Video||Days to 6 billion views|
|Luis Fonsi ft Daddy Yankee||Despacito||772.2|
*Not including kids’ content
|Highest earning influencers on YouTube 2019|
|Streamer(s)||Primary channel||Earnings, USD millions**||Content type||Subscribers*||Viewers*|
|Ryan Kaji||Ryan’s World||26||Kids’||26||40.5|
|Coby Cotton, Cory Cotton, Garrett Hilbert, Cody Jones, and Tyler Toney||Dude Perfect||20||Variety||52||11.2|
|Anastasia Radzinskaya||Like Nastya||18||Kids’||58||38.7|
|Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal||Good Mythical Morning||17.5||Comedy||17||6.5|
|Jeffree Star||Jeffree Star||17||Beauty||17||2.4|
|Mark Edward Fischbach||Markiplier||13||Gaming||26||13.6|
|Evan Fong||Vanoss Gaming||11.5||Gaming||25||12.8|
*total as of July 2020
** earnings from June 2018-June 2019
|Highest earning influencers on YouTube 2018|
|Streamer(s)||Primary channel||Earnings, USD million||Content type||Subscribers, millions*||Total views, billions*|
|Ryan Kaji||Ryan’s World||22||Kids’||26||40.5|
|Jake Paul||Jake Paul||21.5||Vlog||20||6.7|
|Coby Cotton, Cory Cotton, Garrett Hilbert, Cody Jones, and Tyler Toney||Dude Perfect||20||Variety||52||11.2|
|Jeffree Star||Jeffree Star||18||Beauty||17||2.4|
|Mark Edward Fischbach||Markiplier||17||Gaming||26||13.6|
|Evan Fong||Vanoss Gaming||17||Gaming||25||12.8|
|Logan Paul||Logan Paul||14.5||Vlog||22||5.6|
*total at of July 2020
** earnings from June 2017-June 2018
|Most-subscribed YouTube kids’ channels, September 2020|
|Channel||Subscribers (millions)||Views (billions)||Language|
|Cocomelon – Nursery Rhymes||92.1||75.20||English|
|✿ Kids Diana Show||62.3||37.12||English|
|Vlad and Niki||51.1||29.75||English|
|ChuChu TV Nursery Rhymes & Kids Songs||39.4||25.10||English|
|Pinkfong! Kids’ Songs & Stories||37.7||16.89||English|
|El Reino Infantil||36.6||34.09||Spanish|
|LooLoo Kids – Nursery Rhymes and Children’s Songs||33.3||15.65||English|
|Little Baby Bum – Nursery Rhymes & Kids Songs||32.4||28.57||English|
|Like Nastya Show||31.7||12.71||English/Russian|
Source: Social Blade
Key YouTube Gaming Stats
|Most-subscribed YouTube gaming channels, August 2020*|
|Channel||Subscribers (millions)||Views (billions)||Language|
*not including PewDiePie
|YouTube Gaming hours watched by quarter – StreamLabs|
|Quarter||Hours watched (millions)||vs Twitch|
|YouTube Gaming hours streamed by quarter – StreamLabs|
|Quarter||Hours streamed (millions)||vs Twitch|
|YouTube Gaming unique channels by quarter – StreamLabs|
|Quarter||Channels (millions)||vs Twitch|
|YouTube Gaming average concurrent viewers by quarter – StreamLabs|
|YouTube Gaming hours watched by month – Stream Elements|
|Month||Hours watched (millions)||vs Twitch|
*include non-gaming categories
Source: Stream Elements
|YouTube Gaming hours watched by year – Stream Elements|
|Year||Hours watched (millions)||vs Twitch||YouTube market share*|
* YouTube, Twitch, Facebook Gaming, and Mixer
Source: Stream Elements
Key YouTube Financial Statistics
|YouTube ad revenue by year, USD billions|
|Google other revenue by year, USD billions*|
*Only comparable years included, includes YouTube revenue not related to advertising, such as YouTube Premium/YouTube TV subscriptions
|Google properties revenue by year, USD billions*|
*Google ad revenue, less Google Network Members’ properties; includes YouTube advertising revenue
|Total Google revenue by year, USD billions|
|Total Alphabet revenue by year, USD billions|
|Google operating income by year, USD billions|
|Alphabet net revenue by year, USD billions|
|YouTube ad revenue by quarter, USD billions|
|Google other revenue by quarter, USD billions*|
*YouTube revenue not related to advertising included under this heading. Grouping changed Q4 2019, only directly comparable quarters included.
|Google properties revenue by quarter, USD billions*|
*Google ad revenue, less Google Network Members’ properties; includes YouTube advertising revenue
|Total Google revenue by quarter, USD billions*|
*includes YouTube ad and non-ad revenue
|Total Alphabet revenue by quarter, USD billions|
|Total Alphabet revenue by quarter, USD billions|
|Google operating income by quarter, USD billions*|
|Alphabet net revenue by quarter, USD billions|
Other Key YouTube Statistics
- YouTube is the number one site for web traffic worldwide (8.6 billion monthly visits) and in the US (1.6 billion monthly visits) according to hrefs (ahrefs)
- YouTube ranked second globally by Alexa for engagement (Alexa)
- SimilarWeb also ranks YouTube second globally, and first in arts and entertainment (SimilarWeb)
- 73% of US adults use YouTube (Pew Research Center)
- Male/female ratio of YouTube viewers stands at 11:9 (We Are Social/Hootsuite)
- YouTube 10th most downloaded app in Q2 2020 (Sensor Tower)
- YouTube third-most iOS downloaded app in Q2 2020 (Sensor Tower)
- YouTube the 10th most downloaded app globally in Q2 2020 (third on the iOS App Store) (SensorTower)
- YouTube the most-downloaded iOS app in 2018, and the second-most in 2019 (SensorTower)
- Apple stats rated YouTube as the top free app in 2018 and 2019 (Apple)
- As of December 2018, YouTube installed on 5 billion Android devices, with only Google Play services logging more (Android Rank)
- 1 billion hours of YouTube watched per day (YouTube)
- US (16%), India (9%), and Japan (5%) top countries for YouTube traffic, as of July 2020, according to Alexa stats (Alexa)
- SimilarWeb stats relating to desktop YouTube traffic also put the US in first, with 21% of traffic, followed by Russia (5%), Brazil (5%), the UK (4%), and India (3%)
- YouTube accounts for 25% of global mobile traffic, compared to 17% for Facebook Video (Sandvine)
- In February to April 2020, YouTube accounted for 15% of broadband traffic – more than any other site (Sandvine)
- 44,000 YouTube channels had at least 250,000 subscribers in early 2019 (Pew Research Center)
- In the first week of 2019 these-popular channels uploaded 48,486 hours of content and received 14.2 billion views, with average video length of 12 minutes (Pew Research Center)
- Only 33% of these videos of videos uploaded by popular YouTube channels in the first week of 2019 were in English (Pew Research Center)
- Of these popular YouTube channels, 10% accounted for 70% of content uploaded; with the top-10% most viewed videos accounting for 79% of views (Pew Research Center)
- 18% of English-language content posted by popular YouTube channels in the first week of 2019 related to gaming (Pew Research Center)
- 4% of English-language content posted by popular YouTube channels in the first week of 2019 was aimed at children – channels posting this content received higher than average views and subscribers (Pew Research Center)
- 200,000 videos removed from YouTube for spreading fake news related to coronavirus as June 2019 (YouTube)
- Average YouTube mobile viewing sessions 60 minutes (Google via The Street)
- Alexa pegs average YouTube daily usage length at 15 minutes 11 seconds, with visitors viewing an average of 8.3 pages (Alexa)
- SimilarWeb puts average YouTube desktop visit duration at 21 minutes 54 seconds, taking in 8.9 pages (SimilarWeb)
- 500 hours of content uploaded to YouTube every minute (The Street)
- 250 million hours of YouTube viewed per day on TV screens in 2019 (Variety)
- YouTube viewing on TVs increased 80% between 2019 and 2020 – to approximately 450 hours (TubeFilter)
- 100 million people watch YouTube and YouTube TV on a TV screen (Google)
- YouTube reaches 77% of households that stream ad-supported content (TubeFilter)
- YouTube localised to 100 countries, and accessible in 80 different languages (YouTube)
- First video to 1 million views was a Nike ad featuring footballer Ronaldinho (The Drum)
- First video to 1 billion views was Psy’s “Gangnam Style” (Billboard)
- ‘Song’ is the most-commonly searched term on YouTube – ahead of second-place ‘la la la’ by a factor of 1.35, according to Hootsuite/We Are Social (Hootsuite/We Are Social)
- ahrefs find that ‘BTS’ is the most popular search term globally (17.6 million monthly searches), followed by PewDiePie (16.3 million), and ASMR (13.9 million) (ahrefs)
- ‘PewDiePie’ (3.7 million monthly searches), ‘ASMR’ (3.2 million), and ‘music’ (2.7 million) the most searched terms on YouTube in the US in 2020 (ahrefs)
- ‘PewDiePie’ also tops game-related YouTube searches in the US in 2020, followed by ‘Markiplier’ (2.4 million) and ‘Fortnite’ (1.6 million) (ahrefs)
- Branded US YouTube searches are also led by ‘PewDiePie’ and ‘Markiplier’, with ‘PewDiePie vs T Series’ (1.9 million) third in this category (ahrefs)
- ‘Fortnite’, ‘ASMR’, and ‘slime’ keywords associated most associated with higher views on English-language YouTube videos in early 2019 (Pew Research Center)
- JuegaGerman is the most-subscribed YouTube gaming channel (40.1 million, July 2020) (Social Blade)
- Minecraft was the most-viewed game on YouTube in 2019, with 100.2 billion views to Fortnite’s 60.9 billion (YouTube)
- Top-10 YouTube channels earned $162 million between June 2018 and June 2019, down slightly on $181 million the preceding year (Forbes)
- 50 YouTube Originals series viewed 2.5 billion times over 2018 (YouTube)
- Video accounts for 47% of global music streaming, with 77% of music listeners using YouTube monthly (IFPI)
- 20 million YouTube Premium/Music subscribers reported in February 2020, up from 15 million in May 2019 (Variety/Bloomberg)
- 2 million subscribers to YouTube TV (Variety)
- 50 billion hours of YouTube gaming content viewed over 2018 (The Verge)
- 4,505 gaming streamers per day on average, as of January 2019 (Newzoo)
- 8 million users of YouTube Kids in February 2017, with 30 billion views (Tubefilter)
- 64% of US YouTube users report coming across false/untrue content (Pew Research Center)
- When choosing what to watch, YouTube users’ passions are 3x more important than whether or not a video has a famous actor, and 1.6x time more than if it has high production values (Google)
- YouTube ads command an attention rate of 62% (television registers 45%) (Ipsos)
- YouTube non-advertising revenue estimated at $750 million over 2019 (VentureBeat)
- Estimated YouTube valuation anywhere from $140 billion to $300 billion (VentureBeat)
YouTube User Statistics
As with other big names which belong to bigger umbrella groups, Alphabet doesn’t always break out numbers by channel. We can, however, rely on a steady stream of YouTube data and statistics from Alphabet quarterly reports or occasionally standalone YouTube conferences.
So, how many people use YouTube? At a marketing event in May 2019, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki revealed that YouTube currently counts 2 billion monthly active users – which would represent a 5% increase on the 1.9 billion logged-in users reported in July 2018. Going further back, this compares to 1.5 billion YouTube users in June 2017.
While there may well seem like a bit of slowdown, it’s probably worth noting that the total number of internet users in the world is currently pegged at 4.4 billion. That would mean YouTube users account for 45% of world’s entire online population…
We might also note that Alexa ranks YouTube second in the world – as well as in the US. There’s not really anywhere an app can go from there, unless it overtook Facebook. Ahrefs, on the other hand, ranks YouTube as the number one site for web traffic. For a third opinion, we can look to SimilarWeb, which ranks YouTube second, and first in arts and entertainment.
If we consider YouTube as a social network – as well we might, given its user-generated content and its numerous opportunities for communication/connection – it is the world’s second-biggest, according to YouTube data and statistics in We Are Social and Hootsuite’s Digital 2020 report. Only Facebook commands more active users.
(this report was based on 2018 YouTube statistics, hence the 1.9 billion statistic)
Top social networks by users
Source: We Are Social/Hootsuite
We don’t have official statistics for how many people use YouTube Premium, but leaked data indicates a 60% increase between March 2018 and March 2019.
A 2019 study by the Pew Research Center found that YouTube users outnumber those of any other platform in the US, with 73% of US adults identifying as users. Only Facebook, at 69%, comes anywhere near.
YouTube vs other online platforms, US penetration
Of total global households that view ad-supported on-demand content (AVOD), YouTube reaches 77%, according to stats revealed at its 2020 brandcast event.
YouTube’s prominent place in the app landscape looks safe for now. Even with 2 billion users, SensorTower stats still show that YouTube was the 10th most-downloaded app globally in Q2 2020, rising to third if we only count iOS stats.
Over 2019 it was second overall in the iOS table, falling from the top spot it held in 2018.
Apple, on the other hand, rated YouTube as the top-free app in 2019, a position it also held in 2018 – improving on its 2017 rank of second. This put it ahead of Instagram in second, Snapchat in third, Facebook Messenger in fourth, and Facebook itself in fifth place.
Despite its being on the market for around 15 years, YouTube statistics show that it is still the app with which to compete. Indeed, its dominance looks set to continue. Cisco found that video accounted for 75% of online traffic in 2017. This is predicted to climb as high as 82% by 2022.
And where does one go to watch video on the internet, be it from a mobile or desktop device? YouTube remains unchallenged – and indeed accounts for 25% of mobile and 15% of broadband traffic globally, according to Sandvine. Indeed, with the exception of short ‘stories’ style videos on Instagram or Snapchat, or the full episode or film-length offerings of Netflix, there is no other short video-focused medium in the top-20 most downloaded apps on iOS.
It is harder to get a clear picture of YouTube statistics related to Android devices, onto which YouTube comes as part of the pre-loaded suite of default apps. As of December 2018, YouTube had been installed on 5 billion Android devices.
In the US, we find the highest YouTube penetration among younger age demographics. It’s at its highest among the 15-25 age group, 81% of whom are YouTube users, according to AudienceProject stats published on Statista.
This is by far the highest level, a full 10% higher than the next age group (26-35). The drop off in penetration levels as we climb through the age groups thereafter is less precipitous. We might note that nearly six in 10 of the oldest 56+ age bracket are YouTube users, reflecting the app’s universal appeal and ubiquitous status as the home of the short video clip.
In terms of the gender split, We Are Social and Hootsuite stats show 11 male YouTube users to every nine female YouTube users.
According to a 2018 study from Cast From Clay (then known as We Are Flint), YouTube is the most popular app in the US among younger demographics, with 18-24 year-olds, and 25-34 year-old YouTube users outnumbering those of any other app. For every other age group, it is edged out by Facebook, but never falls below second place.
YouTube is even more dominant in the UK, where it is the most popular app with all age groups outside of retirement age. It ranks second still for the Facebook-preferring over-65s and the over-75s alike, however.
Most-popular apps in the US/UK by age group
Source: Cast from Clay
In the US, according to Cast From Clay YouTube data, men and women used YouTube equally. Over 50% of all age groups are YouTube users. Older groups use the app less than younger, though the proportion of YouTube usage among all age groups is strong; two thirds of 65-74 year-olds, and 79% of 65-75s are users, which are incredibly strong figures for these age groups.
It’s those younger age groups, in which over 90% of Americans are YouTube users, where the platform has its most-committed user base, however.
In terms of income, we see the highest usage levels in households than bring in over $100,000. Outside of that, we don’t see a great deal of variation – YouTube is clearly one of the most effective channels to reach US consumers of all stripes. The same applies for urban and rural users, between which there is not huge variation in terms of YouTube usage.
US YouTube demographics
Source: Cast from Clay
We find a slightly higher proportion of female than male users in We Are Flint’s UK YouTube statistics. By age group, we see the same simple pattern, with YouTube usage declining the with the increasing age of respondents. Notably, YouTube usage levels are once again above 90% for all three age brackets below 45 and we do not see the proportion drop to below 50% until we get to the over-75s.
We nearly see the same in terms of income, with higher earners more likely to be YouTube users. Parsing the data in this way doesn’t see the percentage go below 75%, however. Mirroring this, we see higher usage among white collar workers, and among those living in urban settings.
UK YouTube demographics
Source: Cast from Clay
YouTube of course, doesn’t just appeal to grown-up audiences. There are certainly huge swathes of teenagers counted among the regular YouTube users. The YouTube Kids app is aimed at an even younger demographic. As of February 2017, YouTube Kids counted over 8 million active users, with over 30 billion views made in the app.
81% of US parents with kids under the age of 11 say they allow their child to watch YouTube, with 34% saying their child regularly watches content on YouTube. Officially YouTube is for users aged at least 13 – younger users should officially use YouTube Kids. Indeed, 61% of parents who allow their children to use YouTube claim they’ve come across content that was unsuitable for children.
This survey did not differentiate between YouTube Kids and YouTube users, so we do not know to what extent this last stat is the consequence of mislabelled content in YouTube Kids, or kids coming across unsuitable content on ‘grown-up’ YouTube…
US parents who let kids watch YouTube
Source: Pew Research Center
YouTube is localised in 100 countries, and can be accessed in 80 different languages according to its official press assets. This reportedly covers 95% of the internet population.
According to Alexa YouTube statistics, the US is leading source of YouTube traffic, contributing around 16%. India (9%), and Japan (5%) follow. This roughly chimes with previous levels reported by YouTube, referenced in The Street in 2018, allowing for further growth in international viewing levels in the intervening years.
Previous stats have shown Russia and China are the next biggest users, which it noteworthy not least because YouTube technically falls foul of the ‘Great Firewall of China’.
Top countries for YouTube usage (Alexa)
SimilarWeb stats show that 21% of YouTube traffic comes from the US. Russia (5%) is the next biggest source of YouTube traffic, with Brazil (5%), the UK (4%), and India (3%) completing the top five.
Top countries for YouTube usage (SimilarWeb)
India, prominent in both sets of stats, is earmarked as a significant future growth market for YouTube. As of August 2018, Google announced that that there were 245 million active YouTube users in India. This figure was predicted to double over the next two years. Online video accounts for 75% of data traffic in the country – and with 4G networks improving, this is likely to further increase.
eMarketer figures from 2019 estimate 271 million Indian YouTube users, set to rise to 342 million by 2021. YouTube is used by 93.5% of digital video viewers in the country. This will fall slightly in years to come, presumably due to a greater proportion of digital video viewers.
YouTube viewers and penetration in India, 2017 – 2021
Those looking to cash in on the surge in traffic from the world’s second-most populous country might do well to note YouTube statistics that show 95% of YouTube content is India consumed in local languages. A one-size fits all international approach to content creation, then, will not pass muster in this huge and diverse nation.
Notably Google is alive to this, and is reportedly investing in localised search. The Google Assistant works in Hindi and Marathi, with more in the pipeline.
Top earners on YouTube
Forbes publishes an annual of the top earners on YouTube. The table, it should be noted, is not just limited to their earnings on the platform, but also includes other income – in particular from merchandise. While this might somewhat obscure YouTube earnings specifically somewhat, it gives us some idea of the scale of the personal brands that can be built around YouTube output; cults once reserved for the likes of top sports stars, musicians, or actors. It is clear that the relationship between earnings and subscribers/views is not a simple correlation, though it does help…
Indeed, popular YouTubers are given a preferential cut of ad revenue generated from their posts. Advertisers can also shell out to pay for sponsored videos. PewDiePie videos have been sponsored for as much as $450,000, despite the controversies around his content.
Between them, the top-10 YouTube channels earned $162 million in 2019 (actually June 2018-June 2019, slightly down on the $180.5 million logged the trailing year. The latter figure notes Forbes, is up 42% on 2017. The aforementioned merchandise deals have played a large part in bringing this total up, the piece adds. Examples include Jeffree Star’s eponymous range of cosmetics, and Markiplier and Jacksepticeye’s athleisure clothing line, Cloak, and Ryan ToysReview’s line of Walmart-sold collectables.
Many popular YouTube stars produce content on other channels and in other media than their YouTube output. Vanoss gaming has a nascent career as a musician, Jacksepticeye has produced a series for Disney, and top earner Ryan Kaji has a series on Nickelodeon.
A word on Ryan Kaji. The young Californian, has been posting his toy reviews since he was 5-years old, and was announced by Forbes to be the highest-paid YouTube star of 2018 and 2019, with his revenue in the 2017-18 tax year coming to $22 million, rising to $26 million one year on. That’s more than $10 million more than you’d earn, on average, then being a first-team player for FC Barcelona – the highest-paying football club in the world.
Gamers are particularly prevalent in this list, with five of the top-10 in both 2018 and 2019 rising to fame through gaming-related content. This, then, is the YouTube landscape: a place where you can make millions of dollars while people watch you play games. Basically, the monetisation of what older siblings around the world have been doing for decades…
Well, only older brothers are really represented in this list, as virtually every entry in the list of top earners on YouTube is male. The only female to feature in either year is five-year old Anastasia Radzinskaya (Just Nastya).
It seems that new media is blighted by some of the structural challenges of the old.
Top earners on YouTube 2019
YouTube earnings statistics
Official YouTube statistics released in early 2018 say that the number of YouTube channels generating more than $100,000 rose 40% year-on-year (presumably covering 2016 and 2017). Those generating five figures rose by 50%.
These YouTube statistics, however, only show us the relative growth without giving us any specific figures. Anyone thinking about handing in their notice to their employer and setting up with a webcam and some editing software might want to think carefully. For one thing, pro-YouTubers employ recording hardware that costs nearly $4,000….
Mathias Bärtl, a professor at Offenburg University of Applied Sciences, conducted research into YouTube earnings, and found that if you broke into the top-3% of creators on YouTube – bringing in over 1.4 million views per month – your income from YouTube might be as low as $16,800 (the top 1% bring in 2.2 million to 42.1 million).
With one in three British children aged 6-17 reportedly stating a desire to be a full-time YouTuber (three times more than wanted to be doctors or nurses), these YouTube income figures are certainly less than inspiring…
There is some opacity around the process, Fortune reports, with no official YouTube income rates published. Creators can earn as little as $0.35 per 1,000 views or as much as $5. YouTube have also increased the threshold to be able to earn money from videos. Creators must have 1,000 subscribers, and their content must have been viewed for 4,000 hours to be eligible over the previous year.
Gamers, says Bärtl, are 14 times more likely to be successful in achieving this.
YouTube licencing payments per year
As of early 2018, official YouTube data indicated that more than $2 billion was paid out to partners who have chosen to monetise claims using Content ID – a system that scans content uploaded to YouTube to see if matches existing intellectual property. Over 800 million claims were made over this period.
The database, says YouTube contains 75 million active reference files – and has even contributed to YouTube’s winning of an Emmy.
YouTube Usage Statistics
Viewers watch 1 billion hours of content on the platform every day according to official YouTube statistics from February 2017.
Alexa stats indicate the average YouTube session is 15 minutes 11 seconds, during which time 8.3 pages are viewed on average. SimilarWeb gives us a higher figure of 21 minutes 54 seconds, during which time 8.9 pages are viewed.
A total of 70% of YouTube watch time comes from mobile devices, according to self-reported YouTube data.
In May 2019, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki announced, among other YouTube statistics, that watch time of YouTube on TV screens came to more than 250 million hours per day, as of March 2019 – a 39% increase on the 180 million hours reported a year previously. These YouTube statistics are not even the full picture, discounting YouTube TV – a pay-TV cable alternative.
This figure rose by a staggering 80% in 2020, giving us a daily total of 450 million hours. In all it is estimated 100 million users watch YouTube or YouTube TV on a TV screen.
YouTube viewing accounted for 41% of AVOD viewing on TV screens in the US in March 2020.
YouTube usage frequency
YouTube data from We Are Flint shows that, while large proportions of US and UK adults are YouTube users, most are not daily users. While Facebook’s lead in terms of the percentage of adults who use the app is marginal, even YouTube can’t come close to in terms of daily users.
In both nations less than 50% of YouTube users are DAU. A slightly greater proportion of US YouTube users are daily users than in the UK (44 vs 42%). In terms of the proportion of users who are daily users, it does not fare as well as other popular apps.
That said, in absolute terms, these YouTube statistics show only Facebook and Facebook Messenger are used by a greater percentage of total adults in the US. In the UK, we can only add WhatsApp to this short list.
Social media users vs daily social media users, US and UK
Source: We Are Flint
Why do people use YouTube?
Pew Research Center YouTube data shows that US users turn to the app for a number of purposes. Over 50% of YouTube users say they use the app very often to figure out how to do new things (35% of the total adult population), with a further 35% of YouTube users using it somewhat often.
We also see large proportions of users turning to the app to while away time, view product reviews, and to catch up on news/current affairs (19% of YouTubers doing so very often, with a further 34% using it somewhat often for this purpose).
Younger YouTube users are particular keen on using the site to pass the time (40% say it’s very important for this reason).
Why do people watch YouTube?
Source: Pew Research Center
Stats from YouTube show that users are more likely to watch YouTube to catch up on content that is relevant to their passions, rather than seeking famous actors or high production values. This would suggest that users value the user-generated aspect, social aspect of the website, which allows them to connect and engage with likeminded people, rather than seeking slick, professional content.
Users are value content related to their passions three times more than that featuring famous actors, and 1.6x more than that with high production values.
YouTube users’ preference for passions over production values or famous actors
YouTube and shopping
While Pinterest may rack up plaudits for its place in the decision-making process towards making a purchase, the behemoth that is YouTube also seemingly features highly in many shoppers’ purchase journeys.
YouTube data shows that the platform is involved quite early in the decision-making process, with 80% of shoppers who watched a video related to a purchase they wanted to make did so in the early stages of the decision-making process.
It’s not just small purchases, by the way: between 2016 and 2018, over 7,300 years of virtual property tours were viewed on YouTube.
YouTube and early-stage purchase decision-making
According to the same YouTube dataset, shoppers are increasingly turning to YouTube to get a better idea of what they’re buying and to see the things they are thinking of buying in action. Video creators have become a trusted reference point and influence in the purchasing journey. Google compares them to trusted store clerks.
Between 2016 and 2018, we saw a twelvefold increase in watch time of ‘does it work’ videos, and a doubling of ‘everything you need to know’ watch time. We also saw a tenfold increase in ‘shop with me’ videos, in which influencers film their own decision-making process when out in shops.
Perhaps we might assume there’s a bit of vicarious living incumbent in the last of these, with influencers often no strangers to a bit of glamour (in their videos at least!).
YouTube and product demos
Building on the above theme, YouTube users also seek out product reviews. YouTube data pegs the total watch time of product review videos, watched on mobile between 2016 and 2018, at 50,000 years.
It’s not just about seeing if the product is the right one, though – it’s also about seeing how it works. YouTube users are reportedly three times more likely to watch a tutorial video than actually read a product’s instruction manual.
In a connected YouTube statistic, 70% of Millennial YouTube users use the platform to learn a new skill – or about something in which they’re interested.
YouTube as an instruction manual
YouTube music usage
As the dominance of music videos among the most-popular songs indicates, YouTube is one of the key ways we consume music in the 21st century.
In the US, at least, however, it is losing its share of ear. In 2018, YouTube accounted for 11% of time with audio sources. By Q1 2020, this had fallen to 9%. This decline has mostly been driven younger users (13-34), who are the biggest users of YouTube as an audio source. The proportion has fallen from 20% to 16%. Presumably these users have gone to more audio-focused music sources, such as Spotify and Apple Music over this period.
YouTube US share of ear by age group
We have also seen a decline in the total proportion of US users employing YouTube as a music source, from 50% in 2019 to 44% in 2020. This marks the end of several years of steady growth, though we might note a jump up in usage in 2019. In this context, the drop off is perhaps not as severe as it first seems.
YouTube music US penetration
Once again, this is principally driven by a drop-off in younger users in the 13-34 age bracket. The percentage of users in the age bracket using YouTube as a music source fell from 70% in 2019 to 60% in 2020 – lower than at any point in the preceding three years. This still represents the largest demographic of YouTube music users. Usage has not been as badly affected in the 35-54 bracket, and continues to rise among those aged 55+.
YouTube music US penetration by age
Millennial/ Gen Z YouTube usage
According to YouTube statistics published on eMarketer, based on a survey conducted by VidMob, found that 59% of Gen Z respondents claimed to have increased their YouTube usage over the past year – this is more than Snapchat or Instagram.
While Instagram edges out YouTube as the app which the greatest proportion of Millennials say they are using more, the 46% who say they are using YouTube more is certainly noteworthy for any marketers wanting to reach this particular audience.
Which apps have seen growth in usage from US Millennial/Gen Z users?
While we might typically think of the younger YouTube user sitting alone and forging online connections over real-world ones, we might note that 7 in 10 Gen Z YouTube users claimed that watching videos with others make them feel more connected.
YouTube gaming usage statistics
Gaming has become an increasingly important YouTube category in recent years, moving from subculture to mainstream. YouTube has embraced this, coming to represent the chief rival to Twitch (see YouTube vs Twitch).
Streamlab statistics show that YouTube viewing hours have been rising rapidly since Q3 2019, by over 100% by Q2 2020. Certainly much of the 2020 increase can be ascribed to the effects of lockdown, though figures looked to already be on the rise by then, even if we take into account the usual Q4 boost.
As of Q2 2020, around 1.5 billion hours of gaming content were being viewed per quarter on YouTube.
YouTube gaming total hours watched by quarter, Q2 2018 – Q2 2020
Content creation, however, does not seem to follow such an easily described arc, with Q3 2019 seeing a sudden and extreme drop off in content streaming on the platform.
By Q2 2020, however, we see a recovery nearly to the levels seen previously. This may be due to the pandemic, or it may be because streamers became more alive to the healthy audiences on offer through using this platform.
YouTube gaming total hours streamed by quarter, Q2 2018 – Q2 2020
If we look at in terms of the number of live unique channels broadcasting, the reason for the drop off in hours streamed can be ascribed to a serious drop off in the number of unique channels broadcasting. We are seeing these climb again now, though more gradually than hours streamed or watched.
What we are seeing, then, is the remaining channels broadcasting more content to a more enthusiastic (and growing) audience.
YouTube gaming unique channels by quarter, Q2 2018 – Q2 2020
Looking to concurrent viewers, we see a similar pattern to viewing hours – a plateau over 2019, followed by a steep incline afterwards. The rise may again be related to coronavirus or from improvements from YouTube itself.
We might speculate that the drop off in streaming hours and channels were the result of the plateau of 2019, which may have not have seen to deliver satisfactory results for streamers.
The uptick in viewers and viewing hours, combined with the downward turn in channels and streaming hours represent a wonderful opportunity for savvy streamers to log some pretty decent metrics – provided they can master the algorithm and produce great content.
That’s the positive reading. The negative would be that YouTube gaming only seems to suit a small elite of broadcasters rather than providing an egalitarian platform for a wider range of broadcasters.
YouTube gaming CCV by quarter, Q2 2018 – Q2 2020
YouTube Competitor Statistics
YouTube vs TV
Building on that 250 hour per day stat, YouTube data shows that the platform reaches more 18-49 US consumers in an average week than all cable TV networks put together. This stat comes from YouTube data commissioned by Google from Nielsen in 2018.
We can see that television watching as a whole seems to be on the decline. In the US, this is particularly pronounced in the 18-34 demographic. Television’s share of daily viewing hours fell from 27% to 22% between Q3 2017 and Q3 2018, according to Nielson.
We also saw smaller declines in the same period over older age groups, but none as pronounced as this youth demographic. The amount of time they spend watching television (live or catch-up) was pegged at 1 hour and 51 minutes. This is the first time that the figure has fallen beneath 2 hours.
Indeed, it is estimated that only 73% of the 18-34 bracket watched any television at all, as compared to 86% of the overall adult population (if we count only those who watch television, average daily watch time climbs to 2 hours and 11 minutes).
For these younger viewers, the most popular viewing option is a smartphone, which accounts for 34% of daily viewing time, up from 29% in 2017. They spend, on average, around an hour more watching content on a smartphone than watching television on a daily basis. Tablets account for another 7% of viewing time.
35-49 year olds watch nearly as much content on smartphones (29% of daily viewing time – up 4% from 2017) nearly as much as they watch live television (34% – equal to 3 hours and 34 minutes). If we add tablets onto the total then the figure for mobile devices comes to 36% – thus putting them collectively ahead of traditional television.
As we might expect, older generations remain more attached to traditional television. Only the over 65s, however, watch more live television than employ one of the range of online options.
US viewing hours by platform, Q3 2017 vs Q3 2018
For the (affluent) older generation still attached to the traditional live television experience, YouTube TV is intended to beat cable providers at their own game. The offering includes over 70 networks broadcasting in real time. YouTube TV costs $64.99/month, jumping up $15 in June 2020. Certainly not a discount option, then…
YouTube vs Netflix
YouTube has, like Netflix, moved into the game of commissioning its own content, from a range of creators and celebrities, under the banner of YouTube Originals. This ranges from shorter clips of Will Smith bungee jumping out of a helicopter, for example, to full series – such as Cobra Kai, a follow up to 1984 cult classic The Karate Kid.
The latter category of content was a part of the YouTube Premium offering, available only to subscribers of the paid service. In May 2019, however, YouTube announced that new YouTube Original content would be available to all viewers, with non-Premium viewers watching with ads – as with normal content.
Official YouTube statistics showed that, over 2018, 50 YouTube Original series were collectively viewed 2.5 billion times. Episode one of the second series of Cobra Kai alone was viewed 20 million times in the first six days after release.
Alongside this original content, YouTube is also a key destination for streaming content originally created for television or cinema – basically fulfilling the function video and DVDs played just a decade ago. While much of this content viewed is uploaded through unofficial or illegal channels, as of October 2018, YouTube embraced this function by beginning to host classic films.
These include much-loved works such as The Terminator, Rocky, and Legally Blonde. Interestingly, these films are not part of the YouTube Premium offering, but are offered free-to-view with ads. Perhaps the premise won’t sound ideal to those who have grown up with Netflix’ ad free approach, though for anyone belonging to a generation which watched films on a television network, it won’t seem quite as alarming – particularly given the price…
We perhaps can’t start predicting mass disruption from this however; Ad Age notes that while there are some classics, there’s a lot of middling work in there too, with the total number of films initially at a relatively low 100. This is set to increase.
As well as competing with Netflix, television, and the home video market, this will also see YouTube move into competition with other ad-supported on-demand video hosts, such as Walmart-owned Vudu and smart-TV app Tubi.
YouTube vs Spotify
Music videos dominate the most-viewed YouTube videos (see below). Consequently, YouTube dominates music streaming. While not all of its users use the platform for music, it is comfortably the largest music streaming platform in the world.
According to IFPI, 47% of on-demand music streaming is carried on YouTube (with video streaming accounting for 52% in total), compared to 20% on free audio streaming and 28% for paid audio streaming. In all, 77% of music listeners use YouTube to listen to music every month, according to these stats.
YouTube vs music streaming services
The reason for YouTube’s popularity? It’s not complicated – it’s free! 35% of listeners, report IFPI, say their main reason for not paying for a music subscription service is that everything they would want to listen to is available for free on YouTube.
Of course, while this might be a boon for the end user, it is not so much for artists or labels, with annual ARPU from YouTube estimated at under $1, compared to $20 from Spotify (it is unclear whether this includes Spotify listeners with ads, or just Spotify Premium subscribers – by far its biggest revenue stream).
Ad-supported free-to-view videos are not the only way to listen to music on YouTube, however. YouTube Music Premium is a Spotify Premium rivalling service, which offers ad-free and offline listening. YouTube Premium also allows background music listening, while the free service requires the app to be open and foregrounded to listen – a limitation that has the signs of an attempt to frustrate users into using the Premium service…
That said, Google/YouTube have enjoyed a degree of success thus far. Bloomberg reported that between YouTube Music Premium and Google Music, Google’s paid music services counted 15 million listeners between them in May 2019. The latter has since been folded into YouTube Music at some point in the near future. In February 2020, we were given an updated of figure of 20 million YouTube Premium subscribers (this includes standard YouTube Premium subscribers as well as Music Premium). Users on special offers are included in the totals.
These user numbers compare to 130 million Spotify Premium users, and 50 million Apple Music subscribers. Bloomberg notes that while the figures may be low, they are respectable for a service with a considerable free offering that has often struggled to get users to sign up to its paid services. Subscription to YouTube Music Premium is set at $9.99/month, $2 less than YouTube Premium.
YouTube’s visual component gives it some advantages over Spotify. For example, it can provide something more of the live music experience than its audio-focused rival. One such example is the a livestream of the Californian music festival Coachella, beloved of influencers.
The first weekend of the two-weekend festival garnered 82 million live views in 2019; a 90% increase over the 2018 edition.
YouTube also broadcasts the annual UK music awards the BRIT Awards, hosting its own livestream presented by Todrick Hall, aimed at viewers not based in the UK.
The platform’s relationship with live music events, however, does not end with livestreaming. In October 2018, YouTube announced a partnership with Eventbrite, which allows fans to see US concert listings when viewing any given artist on the platform, which they can then click to purchase tickets from Eventbrite. This is in addition to a similar partnership deal with Ticketmaster, which means that a total of 70% of the US ticketing market is covered by YouTube.
In March 2018, YouTube poached Tuma Basa from Spotify, in an effort to boost its music offering. Basa served at Spotify as the curator of the hugely influential RapCaviar playlist – the most-popular playlist on the platform. It also has created original music content, such as Simply Complicated, with Demi Lovato and Band Together with Logic, an acclaimed documentary which saw the internet collaborate with rapper Logic to make a track, using Jason Gordon-Levitt’s HITRECORD platform.
YouTube vs Twitch
Music may be the overall dominant content area on YouTube, but it isn’t alone the only mammoth genre on the platform.
No discussion of YouTube in the second half of the 2010s would be complete without a discussion of phenomenon that is game streaming. Indeed, we’ve alluded to it in other areas in this report – chiefly that gamers feature prominently in the list of the highest earners on YouTube, and that creators of gaming content are far more likely to receive healthy earnings from the platform.
2018 YouTube statistics show that 50 billion hours of gaming content was watched on YouTube over the course of the year. There is even a gaming director. This total was run up by over over 200-million YouTube users who log-in to watch gaming content on a daily basis.
YouTube is, of course, alive to this and in 2015 launched a dedicated gaming app, YouTube Gaming. This included features like game-specific landing pages and channel memberships, as well as a new livestreaming platform which proved so successful it was migrated over to the main platform.
In September 2018, YouTube launched a new gaming landing page on the main site, personalised to show relevant gaming content to individual users as well as some YouTube-wide picks, based on subscriptions and viewing history. This gaming page replaces the YouTube Gaming app, which was discontinued in March 2019.
Of course, game streaming is another area in which YouTube does not operate in a vacuum. Indeed, in Twitch, we have the rarest of things – a rival which is currently outperforming YouTube.
In the second quarter of 2020, Twitch viewers watched 5.1 billion hours of games, compared YouTube’s 1.5 billion hours. This gives both platforms a market share 68% and 20%. New rival Facebook took an 11% share, while the now discontinued Mixer took a mere sliver of 1.4% in its latest quarter.
In terms of hours streamed by creators, YouTube took a smaller share than Mixer, with its 17 million hours accounting for 7%, compared to the 36 million and 14%; the discrepancy between this figure and the previous certainly explains the decision to terminate Mixer.
Twitch’s user base also accounted for a greater share of streaming than viewing, with a 77% share generated from 193 million hours. Facebook’s 2.4% (6 million hours) share of streamers to 11% of viewers represents pretty excellent returns for gaming streamers.
We might note a surge in Twitch watching in April before levelling out in following two months, while YouTube usage remained relatively stable throughout.
Twitch logged 1 billion unique channels in Q2 2020 (61% of the total number), compared to YouTube’s 1.1 million (6.5%). Mixer and Facebook represent two different extremes, with Mixer’s 5 million channels (31%) dwarfing Facebook’s 200,000 (1.2%).
YouTube gaming market share Q2 2020
Similarly, Stream Elements give us a YouTube market share of 21% over 2019, with 2.7 billion hours to Twitch’s 9.3 billion hours.
According to the same source, 403 million hours of gaming content were watched in March 2020 and 461 million hours in April. This compares to 992 million and 1,491 million on Twitch (gaming only).
Moving on to creators (and going back in time somewhat): according to Newzoo stats, in January 2019, Twitch logged an average 12,982 streamers per day, who between them created 1.9 million hours of live video content.
This compares to a daily average of 4,505 gaming streamers on YouTube, who created 460,000 hours of content. Total Twitch streamers numbered 63,700 compared to 22,000 YouTube streamers. We might also note that YouTubers created less content per streamer than Twitchers – 21 minutes to 29.8 minutes respectively.
We can see below that there are some differences in the games that are being most-streamed on the platform. Well, that is beyond the dominance of Fortnite, which leads both by some distance on both platforms.
In sheer numbers alone, Twitch clearly dominates, with its tenth most-popular game being streamed by more users than all but Fornite on YouTube. This higher number of streamers will certainly allow for a wider number of games to be streamed in significant numbers.
On the other hand, if we’re just looking at top-10s, we see that Twitch is dominated by shooters and battle arena-type games (eight out of 10), while other genres seem to be a little better represented on YouTube – though shooters still account for 50% of top-10.
Top games by streamers on Twitch and YouTube, January 2019
That’s not to say that Twitch has an edge over YouTube in every possible department. YouTube seems to be preferred when it comes to streaming mobile games. For instance, Garena Free Fire was streamed by 1,200 YouTubers, compared to a mere 26 Twitch users, while PUBG Mobile was streamed by 2.5 times more streamers on YouTube than on Twitch (949 to 345).
It’s not just streamers either – the mobile version of the game was watched for 19.5 million hours on YouTube in January – putting it only slightly behind the 20.5 million hours clocked up by the console/desktop version of the game (and into third-place overall in terms of viewership).
In the months following, the mobile version would overtake its desktop equivalent, being viewed for over twice as many hours in March (22.7 million to 10.2 million), with the latter taking something of a hit in viewing hours after the high of January. As of May 2019, PUBG was viewed for 13.7 million hours, compared to 23 million hours for PUBG Mobile. For more viewership figures, see the YouTube Content Statistics section below.
YouTube vs. Playstation/Xbox
In Q1 2019, Google announced that it would be entering the gaming market with its new cloud-based Stadia platform. It has argued that this move is less motivated by directly competing with PlayStation and Xbox, but rather focused on maintaining YouTube’s stranglehold on gaming streaming.
Functionality to make this easier has been built into the latest generation of competitor consoles. It may well be that when gaming makes the leap from hardware to the cloud, that Sony and Microsoft will attempt to use their new platforms to wrest control of streaming from Google/YouTube.
The design of the controller has also been noted for its featuring of a Google Assistant and a screen capture button, both of which might drive users towards YouTube – either to upload original content or to seek something related to the game being played. Even the announcement of Stadia featured words from YouTube streamer MatPat.
We might consider, therefore, Stadia simply to be Google/Alphabet taking matters into its own hands and ensuring that it does not rely on anyone else to succeed. Certainly, with the world’s favourite streaming platform as part of its arsenal, it has a key advantage over its as-yet-untested prospective rivals.
Google vs. Microsoft/Amazon
We’ve discussed above how YouTube looks set to play a central role in the console wars of the future – both being a motivation for Google to enter the market to the protect its market share of the world of gaming streaming, and also as the weapon with which it can give itself an advantage over other platforms.
This would not be the only instance of Google leveraging its second-biggest property to get an upper hand. In the past, Google has blocked a Microsoft-developed version of the YouTube app for Windows phones. This was simply the latest blow in an ongoing spat between the two on this matter; certainly, however, we can see how the creators of the Android OS might have an interest in limiting the functionality and appeal of a rival OS. And being able to take away the world’s second-most popular app is quite the hand to be able to play.
Google also took blocked the Amazon Echo Show from accessing YouTube in September 2017, though as of October 2018, Amazon Echo Show users have once again been able to access YouTube through the platform. Google’s motivations for doing so were unclear at the time, though we might again note the Google Home, which can be used in conjunction with Chromecast to offer similar functionality is a rival product…
YouTube Content Statistics
How many hours of video are there on YouTube? Well, it’s hard to set a concrete figure because of the incredible amount of content being uploaded every day.
It is estimated that 500 hours of content are uploaded to the YouTube every minute. That would make 30,000 hours per hour, 360,000 hours per day, 2.5 million per week, 11 million per month, and 131 million hours of uploaded content a year (not withstanding those which are removed for violating the terms of service). For the record, a year is 8,760 hours in length, an 80-year life is 700,000 hours.
So, how many hours of video are there on YouTube in all? We couldn’t say exactly, but there’s a healthy lifetime’s worth more added every two days, so in short: more than you and everyone you know could ever watch…
What are the most-viewed videos on YouTube?
YouTube data around the most-popular videos is dominated by music promos. The biggest by some way is Lois Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee’s ubiquitous “Despacito”, which has been viewed nearly as many times as there are people on the planet, with 6.9 billion views. The only other video to surpass 6 billion views is, no doubt, every parent’s favourite “Baby Shark Dance”. Anyone currently living in blissful ignorance of the latter might do well to resist clicking the link.
Aside from the music which dominates, we see a wealth of children’s content. Behind the ubiquitous “Baby Shark” is an episode of Russian series Masha and the Bear entitled “Recipe for Disaster”. This reflects the popularity of Russian-language children’s content on YouTube, of which it is also the most popular example.
Most-viewed videos on YouTube (billions of views, July 2020)
Data source: YouTube
As an additional note, the most-viewed livestream on YouTube was the Red Bull Stratos Jump (a skydive from space), which garnered eight million concurrent views. To put this in context, the second-most concurrent viewed livestream (a SpaceX launch) got to 2.3 million concurrent views.
Most-watched YouTube videos: the billion views club
It was not ever thus in terms of music video dominance of YouTube statistics. The first YouTube clip to reach 1 million views was a 2006 Nike advertisement featuring Brazil and then-Barcelona football legend Ronaldinho. The low production values and pedestrian pacing of the four-minute video may come as shock to the modern viewer…for non-football fans, it might charitably be described as video where a man puts on a new pair of shoes and then does some (admittedly pretty special) tricks with a ball.
For those feeling less generous it’s very much a video where nothing really happens. Those able to look dispassionately, however, might note how well suited such a video is for YouTube – and how such videos made YouTube what it has become.
Seven years later we’d see a new high watermark in YouTube video statistics: 1 billion mark reached for the first time, by Psy’s “Gangnam Style“. Those interested in the history of content marketing might note the stark contrast between the two clips. Midway through 2015 only Justin Bieber’s “Baby” (knocked off its most-popular video on YouTube perch by Psy) had joined it in the billion views club.
By the end of the year, however, a further 10 videos had joined them. By February 2018 this has risen to 100. It might be noted that YouTube video statistics related to clips with 1 billion views or more are dominated by recent releases. Such stratospheric metrics, it seems, are principally reserved for those who appeal to the contemporary (read: young) viewer – something the YouTube marketer might note.
By which point, “Gangnam Style” had become the first video to reach 2 billion views, and “Despacito” had become the first to break through 3 billion, 4 billion, and 5 billion-view mark, on its way to 6 billion views. In the last two it has only Baby Shark for company.
In terms of single artists, Justin Bieber is the only artist to have five videos clocking 1 billion views, while Ed Sheeran has three videos with over two billion views.
Fastest videos to a billion views
“Gangnam Style” might have the first video with 1 billion YouTube views, but it is by no means the quickest. Indeed, at 158.8 days, it no longer even makes it into the top-10.
In the YouTube video statistics award ceremonies, the honour of the fastest to 1 billion views goes to Adele’s “Hello”, which managed to reach this particular mark within three months (87.4 days to be precise). This is more than a week ahead of “Despacito”.
After this, however, “Hello” seems to lose some steam, taking a full 619.5 days to reach the 2 billion mark. On the other hand, “Despacito” seems to snowball in popularity on its way to achieving its (until “Baby Shark” came along) seemingly unassailable status as the most-watched YouTube video in history – reaching 2 billion views in just over half as much time as it took to reach the first billion, and the third a few days quicker than even that.
Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” is the only video that threatens to get anywhere near the viral Puerto Rican sensation in terms of racking up views in the shortest amount of time, and is the only other clip to reach 3 billion within a year. Though it should be noted that, in terms of time to 2 billion and 3 billion views, the gap between the two widens from 32.8 days to 138.9 days.
YouTube video statistics show that third place “See You Again”, by Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth, takes over twice as long as Shape of You to reach 3 billion views – and four times as long as “Despacito”, at around 2 years and four months.
These music video stats do not include “Baby Shark”, seemingly excluding it on the grounds of its being children’s content.
Fastest YouTube videos to 1 billion, 2 billion, and 3 billion views (days)
Data source: Kworb
At the time of writing, Ed Sheeran’s 4.9 billion views for “Shape of You” are threatening to eventually break into the 5 billion view club, giving us at least a three-way comparison for this level.
Most-watched YouTube videos over 24 hours
YouTube video statistics around the greatest number of views in one day are perpetually getting larger and larger. This raising of the bar shows there’s plenty of appetite for new content on YouTube.
The one consistent factor is, as above, that music videos very much dominate the most-watched YouTube videos by this measure. This medium is one to which YouTube is perfectly suited, and one in which it has no serious rival. On the other hand, it might be said that it is a medium that YouTube has given a new lease of life in these post-music television days…
The current most viewed video on YouTube, however, is a stunt by Paramount Pictures to promote a 2017 remake of Rings – featuring the iconic woman crawling from the TV to frighten punters in a TV shop.
Beyond that, the most-viewed videos in 24 hours represents an arms race between K-pop bands BTS and Blackpink. BTS lead at the time of writing (apologies if this has already changed by the time you’re reading this), with 101 million views for their August 2020 single “Dynamite“.
This overtook Blackpink’s June 2020 hit “How You Like That“, which logged 86 million views, whuhc it self overtook “Boy With Luv”, by BTS and Haley, which garnered 78 million views in its first 24 hours, on 12 April 2019. This completely blew the previous record of 56.7 million, held by Blackpink’s “Kill This Love”, which in turn edged out Ariana Grande’s 50 million views for “thank u, next” (which itself took the record from another BTS track, this time with Nicki Minaj).
Going back a little, to August 2017 to be precise, Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” was another record breaker over a 24-hour period, racking up what now looks like a relatively modest 43.2 million views. At its peak, it was registering over 3 million views per hour. Below, we can see a visualisation of how those views came in over the 24 hours, overtaking Psy’s “Gentleman”, which clocked 36 million views, in the process.
“Look What You Made Me Do” views, first 24 hours
In the run-up to the Oscars ceremony of 2019, official YouTube video statistics were published pertaining to the most-popular acceptance speeches of previous years.
Unsurprisingly, we see Leonardo DiCaprio topping the list for what many felt was a long-overdue recognition for his lead in The Revenant. This is followed by Heath Ledger – whose family accepted the honour after his death. He represents the only instance of a speech for anything but Best Actor or Best Actress on this list.
Kate Winslett is the highest-ranking example of the latter, with a total of four women represented in the top-10. Five of the top-10 occur in 2010s, three in the 2000s, and two in the 1990s – with nothing earlier in the list. Roberto Begnini’s 1999 win represents the only example of a performance in non-English language film receiving the award.
Most watched Oscar acceptance speech videos (Feb 2019, millions of views)
Data source: YouTube
What are the most-subscribed YouTube channels?
Unsurprisingly, the most-popular YouTube channel in terms of subscribers is a music channel. The music channel in question is T-Series, the channel of an Indian Hindi-language record label of the same name. While individual English, Spanish, and Korean artists lead the way in terms of listens, they are, of course, working alone (collaborations aside).
Therefore, T-Series, a channel that instead serves a variety of different artists to a wider market than fans of any one particular artist, earns the accolade of most-popular YouTube channel in terms of subscribers. As of July 2020, it boasted a following of 146 million subscribers (these YouTube statistics are constantly increasing: one year prior, the figure was 105 million).
T-Series leads by a huge margin. The next most-popular YouTube channel belongs to PewDiePie – aka Swedish (English-language) vlogger Felix Kjellberg, with 105 million followers. PewDiePie came to prominence as a game streamer, but has since moved to more general ‘comedy’. Kjellberg has come under fire for racist tropes and language in his posts, and has been linked with the far/alt-right. Nonetheless, his YouTube channel statistics have been among the highest since launching his channel in 2010 – as have his earnings.
This for a while heated up into an open contest between the two to become the most-popular YouTube channel. Initially T-Series CEO Bhushan Kumar said he was uninterested in the contest to rack up the world’s most impressive YouTube channel statistics, which saw a raft of content creators issue rallying cries in PewDiePie’s name (as well as some problematic behaviour from his fans). Kumar ended up, however, encouraging Indians to support T-Series for the sake of national pride.
In April 2019, PewDiePie conceded that he had lost – though it would seem naïve to assume that this was conclusive. The ebb and flow of YouTube channel statistics means that, by definition, nothing is ever final. T-Series has pulled considerably ahead in the meantime.
Aside from music, children’s content is prominent among the most-subbed channels. These are led by Cocomelon – Nursery Rhymes with 88 million views. See below for more detail on the most-subscribed YouTube kids’ channels.
Aside from the big Hindi juggernauts (T-Series and entertainment network SET India, in third with 77 million subscribers), WWE is the next biggest corporate name by this measure (63 million). Theatrical violence and high drama are well suited to the short-clip format, and WWE content tends to do consistently well. Muscled men in leotards can’t compete with simple crafts, however, with 5-Minute Crafts logging 67 million in fifth-place.
English language-content dominates, followed by Hindi. Brazilian Portuguese (Canal Kondzilla, the vehicle of Brazilian music video director, writer and producer Konrad Cunha Duntas) and Russian (Like Nastya – a young influencer producing content aimed at a similarly young demographic) are the only other languages that feature in the top-10. Spanish (Badabun – a Mexican viral content network famed for outing cheating partners) and Korean (K-pop quartet Blackpink) feature in the top-20.
Most-subscribed YouTube channels (July 2020, millions)
Data source: Social Blade
Perhaps Justin Bieber’s status as the most-popular single music artist, by virtue of his 55 million followers, comes as no huge surprise, though he no longer makes the top-10. Closest behind him we find Marshmello with 47 million and Ed Sheeran with 38 million.
Dude Perfect – an American sports entertainment channel (think trick shots, sporting parodies, etc.) with 42 million subscribers, a
Outside of this list of the very-biggest YouTube channels, YouTube stats from early 2018 show that the number of channels reporting over a million subscribers grew over 75%. A further 65% growth was registered over 2019.
If we raise threshold a little higher to 10 million subscribers, we perhaps unsurprisingly find that American YouTube channels are predominant, with over 220. India is the only country to log more than 50, with Brazil, the UK, and Mexico making up the top-five countries by this measure.
YouTube channels with over 10 million subscribers by country
A study by the Pew Research Center in the first week of 2019 found 44,000 YouTube channels which counted at least 250,000 subscribers.
Most-subscribed YouTube kids’ channels
As kids’ content has seeming become increasingly prominent on YouTube in recent years, we thought it would be worth breaking out the most-popular kids’ channels on YouTube.
We might note that kids’ content accounts for four of the top-20 channels by subscription, and six of the top channels by views, overall. Not all of these top channels by views feature in the most-subscribed list – suggesting parents (understandably) prefer to dip in and out.
In terms of content we see a split between nursery rhymes/songs aimed at very small children, with influencer content aimed at those at a more verbal stage.
One of these influencers, Like Nastya features with two channels, giving us some insight into the huge popularity commanded by big names in this field. Anastasia Radzinskaya’s YouTube empire was worth $18 million in 2018/19, making her one of the top-10 YouTube earners in the world.
While English dominates, we also one Spanish-language channel (Argentinian El Reino Infantil). There is some Russian in there through Florida-based Radzinskaya and the Ukraine-based ✿ Kids Diana show, though both produce English language content as well. Dubai-based Vlad and Niki produce content in 11 different languages.
Most-subscribed YouTube kids’ channels, millions of subscribers, billions of views
Data source: Social Blade
What are the most viewed YouTube channels?
While in the list of most-subscribed YouTube channels PewDiePie runs T-Series close, there is no competition whatsoever in terms of the most-popular YouTube channel by views. T-Series has close to 50 billion more views than any other channel, at 116 billion. We might attribute this to the sheer variety of the content it hosts – with non-subscribers looking for a particular song (or several – as anyone who has ever got lost in YouTube will be able to attest) as well as more regular subscribers helping it gain what looks to be – in the medium term at least – an unassailable lead in this department.
Most-viewed YouTube channels (July 2020, billions)
Data source: Social Blade
Providing content to the Indian market seems to be one of the most sure-fire ways to accrue billions of views. We might also note the presence of SET India, in third with 60 billion views, and Zee TV on 35 billion in tenth.
Aside from the two biggest Indian networks, we see other familiar faces from the most-subscribed YouTube list. Cocomelon – Nursery Rhymes has climbed to 69 billion views, up from 27 billion in May 2019. 69 million is around the level at which we found T-Series in May 2019 at which point it counted over twice as many views as any other channel. Clearly the events of 2020 have helped to drive a surge in nursery rhyme viewing…
The stylised pugilism of the WWE can lay claim to 45 billion views, while the lucrative unboxing empire of Ryan’s World is next on 40 billion (the eponymous Ryan has been the world’s highest-paid YouTube star for the past two years – see the section on earnings elsewhere).
We some variety between the most-subscribed YouTube channels and the most-viewed YouTube channels. The most viewed channels is perhaps a little more driven by variety channels and kids’ content, to which users can tune into as they wish without needing to subscribe. For instance, while one might be a regular user, Movieclips (39 billion views) hardly seems like a channel to which anyone would need to subscribe.
We see a fair international mix. Among the Hindi and English content in the top-10, we find Filipino entertainment network ABS-CBN with 36 billion views, Turkish music channel netd müzik, with 28 billion views. Neither of these two are among the top-50 YouTube channels by subs. The (partially) Russian Like Nastya adds to the diversity of the top-10, while among the top-20 we again find Spanish (El Reino Infantil – an Argentinian kids’ channel) and Portuguese (Canal KondZilla), as well as Thai (entertainment network WorkpointOfficial) and northern Indian Bhojpuri (Wave Music)
The biggest YouTube channels dominate viewing figures: in 2016, the top 3% of YouTubers received 90% of total views. This is up from 63% in 2006. The bottom 85% of those who started posting in 2016, on the other hand, could hope for no more than 458 views per month.
Top YouTube gaming content
Leaving aside Pewdiepie, whose celebrity has somewhat transcended his original focus on gaming, pro-gaming streamer, Ninja – Tyler Blevins to his mother – is probably the world’s most-famous creator in the world of games streaming. As of May 2019, Ninja boasts 22 million YouTube subscribers (up from 14 million in July 2018) – which is on top of his not inconsiderable Twitch following. He is currently the fastest content creator to reach 10 million subscribers.
His record for the most-watched livestream – a famous session involving rapper Drake – was, however, beaten by Rubén Gundersen, known as elrubiusOMG online, who managed to attract over 1.1 million concurrent viewers to a stream of a joint-YouTube creator session of Fortnite (what else?). Clearly this was a big day for Fortnite viewership, with a total of 42 million tuning in to watch a Battle Royale tournament.
Ninja is primarily known as a player of Fortnite: Battle Royale – a free-to-play last-person standing shooter, very much a phenomenon in itself. In February 2018, Fortnite set the record for most videos uploads related to one game, easing past Grand Theft Auto V and Minecraft, two other contemporary titans of video game streaming. Minecraft (a building game) is still the most-watched game on YouTube and is enduringly popular, but Fortnite has moved into a strong second place, Google reported in July 2018.
In 2019, the most-viewed game was Minecraft, which logged 100.2 billion views over the course of year, compared to Fortnite‘s 60.9 billion views.
Newzoo statistics map the most-viewed games by month. Looking at their 2019 statistics, we can see that Fortnite clearly dominates. There are fluctuations – seemingly erratic, though certainly there will be reasons behind a surge in Fortnite viewing in April, following a (relative) lull in March. Potentially it could be connected to the beginning of a new Fortnite season that began on February 28 – although any number of factors could contribute to the waxing and waning of viewerships; we can only speculate.
There are fluctuations in the top-10, with games entering and leaving at various points. There is, however, a core of eight games which remain in the top-10 for the duration of the five months listed.
The top-four remains consistent throughout, with the top-five only broken by WWE SuperCard‘s high viewership figures in April. We might note a huge drop-off in viewing hours for PUBG after January, while PUBG Mobile seems to be steadily increasing in YouTube viewership hours. Garena Free Fire is another mobile-only title represented throughout.
This reflects, as discussed above, the popularity of mobile gaming on YouTube.
Top-10 Most-watched games on YouTube, January-May 2019, millions of hours
Data source: Newzoo
As of August 2020, the most subscribed purely-gaming YouTube channel (so excluding PewDiePie) belongs to JuegaGerman (Germán is his name, nothing to do with the country), a Chilean YouTuber. As well as being the top gaming channel, JuegaGerman is the third-most subscribed Spanish-language channel overall. He boasts 40.7 million subscribers and counts 11.5 billion views overall.
It’s probably worth pointing out that Germán’s non-gaming channel, HolaSoyGerman, with roughly 0.5 million more subscribers is the second-most subscribed Spanish-language channel…
Not far behind in second-place is Fernanfloo, another Spanish-langauge YouTuber from Latin America – this time from Salvador – with 37.4 million subscribers and 8.35 billion views. We’ll let you guess what language third-place VEGETTA777 blogs in, but we can tell you el vive en España.
American Markiplier represents the highest English-language YouTuber, counting 26.4 million subscribers. The rest of list comes from the Anglophone world, with the exception of 9th placed AuthenticGames, who is from Brazil.
We might note that, with 24 million subscribers, Ninja – the most famous gaming streamer (as in, not just internet famous, but on the cover of Sports Illustrated-famous) and certainly the richest, only manages the make seventh place in the list. He also logs a far lower number of total views, though this is probably more down to Twitch and briefly Mixer being his primary platforms.
We might also note that eighth-place DanTDM leads of the way for views out of this top-10 by some way, logging a massive 17 billion.
Most-subscribed YouTube gaming channels, millions of subscribers, billions of views
Data source: Social Blade
It’s not just straight-up gameplay content that is attracting views on YouTube. We see some more innovative content being created and viewed as well.
The Think With Google Blog (more of which further down, in the ‘YouTube trends’ section below) noted the popularity of the ‘ugly to beautiful challenge’. Not a Queer Eye sort of makeover programme…well at least not, for real people, but a gaming challenge that sees creators give makeovers to unusual characters in the game Sims 4.
Watch time of these videos increased by a factor of 4.5 between summer 2017 and summer 2018. This shows, notes Google, an interesting intersection between two categories in beauty and gaming which one would not typically associate with each other.
Popular YouTube channel content stats
A study carried out by the Pew Research Center in the first week of 2019 aimed to map content trends related to channels with over 250,000 subscribers – of which 44,000 were identified.
In all, these channels uploaded 48,486 hours of content to YouTube, and received a total of 14.2 billion views. These videos averaged 12 minutes in length, suggesting a tendency towards medium-length content (at least from a short-video perspective).
These average figures don’t tell the whole story. A small proportion of channels dominated content creation, with 10% accounting for 70% of content created. Similarly, we see a top-heavy pattern in terms of views, with the top-10% of claiming 79% of views.
YouTube popular channel top-heaviness in content creation/views, Jan 2019
Source: Pew Research Center
Reflecting YouTube’s status as global website, we might note that English was the primary language in only 33% of these videos. Certain content trends emerged among these English-language videos, which confirm some of what we have previously observed – namely the popularity of gaming and children’s content. These two categories account for 18% and 4% respectively.
Children’s content, the research notes, receives more views than average, with the channels tending to register a higher number of subscribers than average. We might note that the most popular children’s content is that which features children – something we see evidenced by the popularity of pint-sized influencers among the most-viewed and subscribed channels seen above.
Average video views by content type for popular YouTube channels
Source: Pew Research Center
Most-searched terms YouTube
YouTube search data can be an invaluable resource for marketers. We have reached a point in which the status of video content is entrenched, with YouTube as its natural home. Therefore, one of the most important functions of YouTube is as a search engine.
So, for what are people searching on YouTube? We can see from the We Are Social/Hootsuite data below further evidence (if we needed it) of the role played by music in YouTube, with ‘video’ – the first term that isn’t related to music garnering less than 40% of the total volume of searches for top-ranking ‘song’.
In total, eight of the top-10 search YouTube search terms pertain to music, with the Spanish/Portuguese ‘musica’ in ninth pointing to YouTube’s global reach (we can presume second place ‘la la la’ is universally understood). We also see the Thai ‘เพลง’, meaning song, ranking 20th.
Aside from these more generic terms we also see Korean hit factory BTS sneak in at 15th – who are so big as a search term that they get a full 8% of the number of searches as does plain old ‘song’. ‘Baby’ at six is no doubt bolstered by the Justin Bieber, but then it’s perhaps too generic a term to be fully attributed to the 2010 mega hit (the age of which is also an argument against it).
The inclusion of ‘cartoon’ at 17 and ‘cartoon cartoon’ at 18 gives us a clue that it might be in the more literal sense that it is included. Presumably ‘story’ also reflects a desire to keep small ones entertained.
The YouTube generation has begun to procreate, it seems.
Fortnite’s inclusion just outside the top-10 should be no surprise given the increasing prominence of livestreaming gaming. It is joined by Minecraft in 12th. We also might note the inclusion of ASMR in 16th, reflecting the huge popularity of this new, bizarre-to-outsiders, sensory format of video.
Top YouTube search queries
Source: We Are Social/Hootsuite
ASMR is also singled out in the aforementioned Pew Research Center research, which found that videos featuring the term, or the related ‘slime’, logged a higher number of views among English language videos in early 2019. ‘Fortnite‘ gave views the greatest boost, giving videos a close-to-500% boost in views.
YouTube keywords associated with higher views, Jan 2019
Source: Pew Research Center
According to Ahrefs data published in April 2020, the top-searched YouTube term globally was Korean boyband BTS, who logged 17.6 million monthly searches.
They are joined in the top-10 by compatriots (and rivals in popularity) Blackpink, while Billie Eilish, “Old Town Road”, and plain old ‘music’ once again confirm what is already abundantly clear: nothing comes close to music in terms of popularity on YouTube.
“Baby Shark” ranks fifth, while ASMR ranks as high as third. Mexican channel Badabun and ‘peliculas completas in en español’ (complete films in Spanish) rounding out the top-10.
Top-10 global YouTube search terms
If we narrow our focus to the US, PewDiePie comes out on top, with 3.7 million monthly searches. He also features under ‘PewDiePie vs T-Series’, in reference to his battle with the Indian network to log the greatest number of subscribers.
In the US list we also see influencers Markiplier, David Dobrik, and Jacksepticeye included the top-10, showing a greater interest in this format in the US market. Fortnite makes it into the top-10 here, after ranking 11th globally.
Aside from that the list is not hugely different from the global overall list.
Top-10 US YouTube search terms
Ahrefs also breaks down the top ‘branded’ searches – including influencers. As suggested by the presence of Markiplier, Jack Septiceye and PewDiePie in the previous listing, gaming content is prominent here. DanTDM and Game Grumps make it 50% game influencer content in the top-10.
James Charles and David Dobrik represent non-gaming influencers, while Joe Rogan is the only individual name in this top-10 whose fame extends beyond the realms in YouTube. SNL is the only brand name proper in here, and aside from Rogan the only callback to the world of traditional media.
YouTube is very much a world of its own – connected with, but certainly not reliant on the media landscape that predates it.
Top-10 branded US YouTube search terms
The top-10 US gaming searches are also dominated by influencers, with Fortnite and Minecraft breaking things up a little. US influencers are the best-represented, although it is led by a UK-based Swede, with Irish Jacksepticeye and British DanTDM featuring in the top-five, and the top-10 closed out by Canadian Vanoss Gaming.
Top-10 US gaming YouTube search terms
YouTube content policing
Given the volume of content uploaded to YouTube, it is almost inevitable that a certain proportion of YouTube videos will fall foul of content guidelines and standards: whether it is copyright infringement, offensive/pornographic/extreme content, spam or anything else forbidden by the terms of service. 200,000 videos found to contain misleading information pertaining to coronavirus were removed as of June 2020, for example.
Child safety figures highly in YouTube’s rhetoric around the policing of content.
Google uses technology to help root out non-compliant videos, alongside human reviews. Between July and September, 7.8 million videos were removed, according to official YouTube stats published by Google. 81% of these were first discovered by technology, of which 74.5% were yet to receive a single view.
In addition, 90% of videos removed for in September 2018 for violent extremism or child safety – among the most problematic content on the platform – had been viewed fewer than 15 times. A total of 10.2% of video removals were for child safety purposes (not to be confused with child sexual abuse material, which YouTube reports accounts for only a fraction of removed content).
Over 90% of channels and 80% of videos removed in the same month were due to violations on spam or adult content.
It’s not just content and channels on which YouTube needs to keep an eye. It’s also those below-the-line comments (YouTube comments are indeed notorious as being one of the ‘sewers’ of the internet). In the same July-September 2018 period, over 224 million comments were removed from YouTube. Most of these were removed for being spam, rather than being awful. Nearly all of these comments (99.5%) were removed by automated systems.
The YouTube data post in which this stat is listed points out this reflects only a fraction of the “billions of comments posted on YouTube each quarter”. It also reports that daily users are 11% more likely to be commenters than they were last year.
YouTube Trending provides a curation of content that is currently popular on YouTube. If you want to get an idea of what’s on people’s cultural radars or what’s happening in the often-bizarre online world, then this is the place to look.
The top YouTube Trending videos of 2018 include an 11-minute film from model Kylie Jenner on her pregnancy with and birth of her daughter, a compilation of trick shots from Dude Perfect, and a breakup video from YouTube couple David Dobrik and Liza Koshy. It also features less predictable entries, such as a two-hour Vietnamese musical comedy set in the criminal underworld and, of course, a conclusive study into whether it is Yanny or Laurel (again, if you don’t know, sometimes ignorance can be bliss).
Of course, YouTube Trending is often dominated by the latest BTS smash hit, or trailers for the new Toy Story movie (although when we looked, these were punctuated by video explainers of the Huawei ban, a pastry chef’s attempts to make gourmet Doritos, and an apple being dipped into pure gold…of course). While these might be useful for someone looking at what sort of content succeeds on YouTube, it perhaps doesn’t tell us too much we don’t know about the world at large.
A deeper dig into wider YouTube data than can be found on YouTube Trending, however, can help us understand more about the times we live in – as is the unique potential a site that’s popular enough to be considered universal. The fast-moving nature of YouTube means that we can see reactions to contemporary events and trends, both in terms of content uploaded and viewed.
For instance, YouTube video statistics published on the official blog highlight the example of sustainability and fashion haul videos. The latter are videos in which vloggers show off their ‘haul’ of clothes to their eager fans. But as sustainability becomes a bigger and bigger concern in fashion as in other areas (the same blog notes that views of videos with Greta Thurnberg in the title were already at three times 2017 levels by April 2018), we have seen a significant uplift in sustainable fashion haul content.
Sustainable fashion haul video views
This is just one example of how we can see the world’s concerns and tastes coming together in the YouTube video statistics. We also reportedly saw a 7x lift in video views for ‘clean beauty’ in October 2018, while views for videos pertaining to sustainable living doubled over 2017 as compared to 2018. The most popular of these in 2018 was “20 Ways to Reduce Waste”, which as of May 2019, had garnered over 1 million views and 56,000 likes.
We also saw a 4.5 increase in videos related to ‘van life’ – content related to reducing one’s carbon footprint by, well, living in a van. One van life channel boasts 400,000 followers! For context, that’s not far short of the entire population of Minneapolis.
While this might not quite be up there with the most-watched videos on YouTube, it certainly shows how niches can build solid followings.
Google also occasionally releases YouTube data related to trends on its Think With Google blog – aimed at giving brands access to some of the insights that arise from Google’s various platforms. Perhaps we can relate the trend identified in the August edition of the blog to van life, and getting back to a simpler way of life: primitive technology, survival, and bushcraft videos – between January 2017 and July 2018 views of these videos increased by 248%
Perhaps to help those for whom the idea of living in a van and building your own water purifier sounds like a step too far, we saw, in September 2018, a 70% year-on-year increase in videos related to relaxing. In a stressful world, people are turning to YouTube videos to help them relax.
This being the internet, it is not just a simple as relaxing music and meditation videos, of course. No, people turning to YouTube to relax are also looking for aquarium videos and slime ASMR (be warned uninitiated, you’re either going to love it or hate it…). YouTube statistic show this was complemented by a 60% rise in videos in stress management.
One way in which 21st century society is increasingly dealing with the stresses of modern life is travel – no doubt, in part, inspired by the wealth of travel-related content on visual media such as Instagram and, yes, YouTube. Views of travel-related content on the platform increased by 41% between August/September 2017 and August/September 2018. Mexico and Thailand (in that order) were the most-popular destinations, edging out 2016 and 2017’s most-searched destination Japan.
People are also turning to content on topics concerning their everyday lives. For instance, watch time for videos looking at morning routines tripled between 2016 and 2018, while night time routine videos were watched 80% more in 2018 than in 2017.
It’s not just the content of videos that trend. It can be the presentation style also. We might note, for instance that YouTube video statistics show that those featuring ‘virtual’ YouTubers – that is YouTube channels that employ animated avatars, using face and motion detectors to mimic the movements of the creator – brought in 500 million views from January 2017 to August 2018. This trend gathered pace over this period, with such videos gaining four times as many daily views over the period of 2018 covered than in 2017.
Or we might see trends in the way creators use the platform, for instance in audience interaction. Using polls on YouTube, creators can ask their audience to help them make decisions. Google give us the example of fashion and beauty blogger Meredith Foster, who asked the audience to help her choose what to order from a fast food menu. Such videos were viewed 100 million times in the first seven months of 2018.
Finally, we see trends in the purposes to which YouTube is being turned. Google note an increase in teachers setting up and giving virtual tours of their classrooms. This trend was first identified in 2015, but seems to have been on the increase. In August 2018, there were over 2 million views of such videos, with total watch time hitting 300,000 hours.
YouTube autoplays a new video after viewers have finished viewing content, based on viewers’ previous viewing history, and the nature of the current clip.
A Pew Research Center experiment found that YouTube recommended progressively longer videos. Starting videos averaged 9 minutes 31 seconds (chosen at random from 14,000 popular channels) increasing to 14 minutes 50 seconds by the fourth recommendation.
In addition to increased length, the videos also increased in views. The average starting point for the experiment was 8 million views. The first recommended video was 30 million views, rising to 40 million views by the fourth.
Length of recommended videos
Source: Pew Research Center
During this experiment, 134 videos were recommended more than 100 times during the 175,000 trials. Of the 50 top videos, 11 were aimed at children. Animated children’s videos were the most commonly encountered video category.
In all, nearly 100,000 videos were recommended more than once during the experiment.
Frequency of times videos were recommended
Source: Pew Research Center
These YouTube algorithms are important – we might note that the vast majority of US users of all age groups use the recommended video feature at least occasionally.
Usage is particularly high among 18-29 year olds, 22% of whom used this feature regularly, with a further 67% using it sometimes.
Age groups of users who use recommended videos
Source: Pew Research Center
YouTube content issues
YouTube is largely unregulated as a news platform, this is potentially problematic, considering the large proportion of users that use the site for news/current affairs. Indeed, Pew Research Center 2018 YouTube data shows that 64% of users say they sometimes come across obviously false/untrue content on the site, with 15% saying they so often.
61% of users also state they sometimes come across content showing people engaging in dangerous behaviour (with nearly one in five saying they do often), and 43% say they sometimes come across content in which users are abusive towards others.
US users who have encountered problematic YouTube content
Source: Pew Research Center
YouTube Ad Statistics
Advertising was first launched on YouTube back in August 2007.
70% of shoppers say they are open to learning about products from brands on YouTube, according to Google.
The announced opening of YouTube Original content to non-premium subscribers will certainly allow advertisers to reach wider and wider audiences.
Would-be YouTube advertisers can sign up with Google Preferred, which offers them placement with the most-popular content on YouTube. Google Preferred utilises an algorithm, known as the P-Score, which measures both the popularity of content and viewer passion – which is measured through indicators like repeat views and shares.
In May, Google announced that it was adding two extra factors to help brands – looking at on what sort of device YouTube videos were typically viewed (mobiles or larger screens) and the production values of the video. The P-Score is intended to help advertisers match with content that is relevant to their brand (and, of course, to keep them away from content which is a mismatch). Manual vetting and the option to opt-out of advertising on certain videos are aimed to help prevent reputational damage.
Google self reports that 96% of Google Preferred campaigns drover an increase in ad recall, with the average across improvement standing at 42%. This is complemented by a 17% rise in brand awareness, and an 11% increase in purchase intent.
Google Preferred ad-lift
A study conducted by Ipsos in 2017, commissioned by Google it should be noted, found that ads on YouTube were far more likely to hold the attention of viewers
Using glasses that tracked how a small sample of television and YouTube viewers reacted to ads, the study found that 55% of television advertising did not hold viewer attention. While ads were on, 26% of viewers used the time to multitask, while 14% of viewers switched the channel, and 15% didn’t watch them at all.
This compares negatively to YouTube mobile ads, which command an attention rate of 62%, with only 12% multitasking. The skip rate of 25% is also eye-catching.
Non-skippable ads (the language is somewhat unclear – they refer to these as ‘paid’ ads) command at an attention rate of 83% – not far off being double that of television ads. 15% of viewers multitask during these ads, while 2% switch to other content.
Television vs. YouTube ads attention paid
Breaking down the multitasking a little bit, we can see that using another device is the biggest distraction from TV ads. Notably, mobile YouTube ads are close to impervious to this, given that they are being viewed on the very device which could cause the distraction.
The nature of holding a phone to watch something also makes it far less likely that users will be pottering around the room doing something else, or seemingly leave the room – both of which account for over 50% of multitasking time during televised ads.
The only measure on which YouTube ads fare worse than their televised equivalents is when it comes to skipping – where a higher proportion will skip ads than will fast-forward a television advertisement.
Multitasking during television vs. YouTube ads
While YouTube may possess certain advantages for advertisers over television, we might note that the YouTube is moving closer to television in some senses – perhaps a liberty it can increasingly afford to take as the audience slowly becomes more akin to the captive audience to which television could lay claim for half a century.
In November 2018, YouTube announced that they were doubling the quantity of ads served before viewers are able to watch videos (from one to two). These ‘ad pods’ were initially limited to desktop YouTube users, but were to be rolled out to mobile users over the course of 2019. Ad pods will not feature on all videos, with factors such as length taken into consideration.
This, however, is a somewhat risky strategy. As discussed above, YouTube ads are currently much better at getting and holding viewers’ attention in comparison with television. One of the chief reasons for this is the sheer volume of ads on TV – something that annoys 73% of viewers.
Though perhaps the other way we might look at it is as a strategy to drive those who are truly infuriated by ads to YouTube Premium. According to Salesforce, 39% of media consumers are willing to pay for ad-free content…
What type of YouTube ads succeed?
95% of ads on YouTube are audible, and 93% are viewable (an interesting stat, given the intrinsically visual nature of YouTube).
Employing both visual and audible content can make a significant difference in a YouTube ad’s success rate. Audible and viewable YouTube ads see brand recall nearly four times higher than only audible ads, and 1.6 times high as ads which are only viewable.
Viewable/audible ad content: brand recall
Ads that engage both the eyes and the ears are also likely to be better recalled in of themselves: 2.7 times more than only audible ads, and 1.4 times more than viewable only.
Viewable/audible ad content: ad recall
Of course, recall doesn’t count for much if it doesn’t inspire viewers/listeners to actually consider your brand when shopping. In terms of brand consideration, audible and viewable ads provide a 2.6x time boost over audible content and a 2.9x boost over viewable content.
Viewable/audible ad content: brand consideration
As a side note, it is interesting to note here, that while ads which are only viewable seem to fare better in terms of brand and ad recall, audible ads have a slight edge in terms of brand consideration – something worth considering to advertisers who are only able to choose one or the other.
The clear takeaway here, however, is that ads stand a far greater chance of landing successfully if they are both viewable and audible – thus making the conclusion of this data from Google, predictably, that YouTube ads are highly effective.
Measuring the success of YouTube ads
In January 2019, Google and Nielsen reached an agreement that would see Nielsen including YouTube views as part of its Total Ad Ratings. It also announced an expansion of the measurement of mobile audiences, including YouTube’s mobile audience.
Given that a large majority of YouTube views of ads (and consequently overall views of any given ad, given YouTube’s looming shadow over the world of broadcast) come on mobile devices, this should surely be considered a fairly essential step in establishing the success of any given advertisement – a step in the right direction for an industry that can ill afford to be resistant to change.
This has been interpreted as a way of Google attempting to get into the TV advertising business.
YouTube ads and the Super Bowl
Let’s come back to the advantages YouTube possesses as being watched most often on the distraction device. Reportedly 80% of sports fan look at a second screen while they’re watching live games. So while all the talk is usually about the big ads during something like the Super Bowl, an equally lucrative place to host your ad would be the little device to which viewers are turning during lulls in play.
Google, of course, are savvy enough to know that there’s gold in them hills – and therefore offer a specialised hub for Super Bowl-related ads, called AdBlitz, which focuses on offering ads during the biggest event of the US sporting calendar. Viewers even utilise the platform to vote for their favourite ads, in the long-held tradition of rating and reviewing ads during the big game.
While these ads, alongside the halftime show, are often the topic of water-cooler chat the next day, it’s not just in the hangover of the event itself that they can be effective. Indeed, the on-demand nature of YouTube means that older ads are still able to feature in the imagination of viewers.
According to YouTube statistics, the 2016 halftime show, which starred Coldplay, Bruno Mars and Beyoncé, was viewed no fewer than 21 million times in 2018, while Lady Gaga’s 2017 show was viewed 10 million in 2018. Going even further back, Prince’s 2007 show clocked up 6 million views.
YouTube Revenue Statistics
As with other media entities that belong to larger conglomerates, getting precise figures on YouTube revenue depends very much on what titbits Google are willing to share with us.
And of late, they have given us a little glimpse behind the curtain, with some specific figures pertaining to YouTube’s revenue contribution. We now know that YouTube ad revenue was worth $15 billion in 2019, $11 billion in 2018, and $8 billion in 2017 to Alphabet.
We also have some quarterly figures, the latest at the time of writing being Q2 2020, with $3.81 billion of YouTube ad revenue, comparing to total Google properties (total Google ad revenue less Google Network Members) revenue of $25.13 billion.
We can see that typically we would expect both Google and YouTube ad revenue to climb through the year, before a Q1 re-calibration. Of course, a certain virus seems to have put paid to that in 2020, though we might note a small year-on-year improvement for YouTube. This is not the case for overall Google Property revenue, which would seem to suggest that YouTube ads are more resilient.
This sees YouTube creep over 15% of Google ad revenue.
Stats for Q3 2019 had not been officially published at the time of writing. Using the annual stats we do have, however, this should be around the $3.8 billion mark, compared to $28.65 total Google properties revenue.
YouTube ad revenue by quarter vs Google properties revenue, Q4 2018 – Q2 2020, USD billions
Data source: Alphabet
You can see more comprehensive figures pertaining to various ways in which Alphabet breaks down its data in the Key Stats section found at the very top of this report.
YouTube’s ad figures were higher than some estimates. YouTube 2018 revenue was pegged at $9.5 billion by eMarketer. Other estimates predicted YouTube ads would slightly more lucrative. Alphabet-employed analyst estimated that 2018 YouTube revenue came to $14 billion.
BMO analyst Dan Salmon’s estimate for 2017 YouTube revenue, which he placed at $12.4 billion, was also well north of the mark. This would have been worth 11% of Alphabet’s total revenue for that year ($110.9 billion).
In reality, YouTube ads were worth 9% of total Alphabet revenue in 2019, up from 8% in 2018 and 7% in 2017. YouTube ad revenue’s seeming resilience compared to overall revenue may mean we may well see this trend continue in 2020.
Salmon also estimated that YouTube revenue would rise to $24.7 billion by 2020, 13% of the estimated $189.9 billion he predicts Alphabet will bring in over 2020. It seems fair to say that this was already overly optimistic without the added complications we’ve since experienced…
Overall, ads contribute around 85% of Alphabet’s total revenue.
Slowing growth has been a cause for concern in recent years, as it has across ad-dependent industries. Alphabet stock has suffered in the past, as it did following an underwhelming Q1 2019, which saw only 15% growth.
Just how badly coronavirus will affect the ads industry in the long run remains to be seen, but it may end up accelerating a long-term trend and precipitating a serious rethink.
Alphabet ad revenue growth: Q1 2017-Q1 2018
Source: Yahoo Finance
YouTube US ad revenues
eMarketer, of course, draws its information from a variety of sources. Elsewhere it gives us a slightly more generous $3.96 billion estimation for 2018 YouTube US ad revenue, accounting for 10.3% of total Google net ad revenue in the US, and representing a 13% increase over the previous year.
This chart indicates both slowing growth overall, and slowdown in the increase in YouTube ad revenue as a share of the total Alphabet figure. Though the fact that it was estimated to be increasing at all is useful in benchmarking YouTube ad revenue performance against Alphabet as a whole in previous years.
It seems likely given the events of 2020 that YouTube will continue to increase its share, and potentially at an accelerated rate.
YouTube US ad revenue, 2015-2018
Yet another eMarketer YouTube dataset gives us a predicted $4.43 billion in YouTube US ad revenue in 2018, which is complemented by $4.7 billion in YouTube ad revenue from the rest of the world. The total comes to $9.13 billion.
This YouTube dataset shows that, while as recently as 2016 the US accounted for 52% of total YouTube ad revenue, that figure is in gradual decline. By 2020 we may even see the US share falling as low as 46.5%.
While 2017’s worldwide total figure for Google ad revenue wasn’t too far off, we’ve seen YouTube deliver significantly higher ad revenue than predicted in these stats.
YouTube US ad revenue vs. non-US ad revenue, 2016-2018
Source: eMarketer (via Medium)
YouTube Premium revenue
Alphabet has been less forthcoming about YouTube Premium subscription levels. All we really have to go by is ‘Google other revenue’ – which also includes sales of hardware and Google Play Store revenue.
Interestingly, revenue in this section has remained relatively robust, with revenue in Q2 2020 not too far off what we saw during the peak of Q4 2019. How much YouTube Premium’s (including YouTube Music) 20 million subscribers contribute to this exactly is unclear, of course.
In total, this section generated $17 billion worth of revenue in 2019, up from $14 billion in 2018 and $11 billion in 2017.
Google other revenue by quarter, Q4 2018 – Q2 2020, USD billions
Data source: Alphabet
In May 2018, Morgan Stanley suggested that subscription services could see YouTube increase its revenue per user by 13x. Every million subscribers could contribute an extra 1% of revenue, according to this model.
IHS Markit predict that we will see YouTube Premium revenue more than double between 2018 and 2021. It estimates current revenue from the service stands at a little under $0.75 billion, with the lion’s share coming from North America.
By 2022, YouTube Premium revenue will be close to $2 billion by this reckoning. The US will still dominant, but Europe will also claim account for a good deal of YouTube Premium subscribers, with APAC and Latin America also gradually increasing their share.
Whether the subscriber levels we’ve seen thus far (15 million subscribers in May 2019 to 20 million in February 2020) can deliver this sort of revenue growth remains to be seen. Certainly, competition for users’ subscription fees has only increased since these estimates were made in 2018.
YouTube Premium predicted revenue by region, 2018-2022
Source: IHS Markit via TVB Europe
It might be noted that these estimations predate YouTube’s opening up of Premium content to ordinary viewers, supported by ads.
The latter move suggests a cooling of interest/belief in the potential of YouTube Premium subscriptions as a revenue stream. Some voices suggest that this is prudent move for a platform chiefly associated with free-to-view content. A paucity of must-view content and an increasingly competitive streaming market are solid cases for this camp.
The above estimates were so optimistic they excluded YouTube Music Premium; Google makes no such differentiation in its subscriber figures, even following the folding in of Google Music to YouTube Premium Music.
Total Alphabet revenue came to $162 billion in 2010, up from $137 billion in 2018 and $111 billion in 2017. To give a sense of scale, 2019’s figure is more than double 2015’s
Alphabet annual revenue, 2014 – 2019, USD billions
Data source: Alphabet
Q2 2020 saw Alphabet register $38 billion in revenue, down from $41 billion in Q1 2020. The highest quarterly revenue figure to date was the $46 billion registered in Q4 2019.
This revenue generated $6.4 billion net income for Alphabet in Q2 2020, down from $6.8 in Q1 2020, and $10.7 billion in Q4 2019. These figures were driven by Google operating income of $7.6 billion, $9.3 billion, and $11.5 billion respectively.
We might note that profitability in Q2 2020 seems to have borne up relatively well in comparison to other metrics, despite being down.
Google operating income and Alphabet net income by quarter, Q1 2018 – Q2 2020, USD billions
Data source: Alphabet
In 2019, Alphabet generated $34.34 billion in net income, based on Google operating income of $41.67 billion.
This compares to net revenue of $30.74 billion in 2018, and $12.7 in a more difficult 2017.
Clearly, YouTube is an invaluable asset to Google. Well, when we say invaluable, we don’t really mean that – as everything has its price. According to what Barron’s describes as a “bullish Alphabet analyst”, YouTube is worth $140 billion. Furthermore, Laura Martin, the bullish analyst in question, thinks that Alphabet should in fact spin it off.
This valuation would make YouTube account for a little bit less than 20% of Alphabet’s total value (at the time this estimate was made in Q1 2019, at least). The figure, it should be noted, is based on YouTube being a loss-making operation. Spinning it out would allow Wall Street to invest in specific segments of the business, rather than the whole conglomerate, and would have the effect of improving capital allocation.
Needham was back later in the year, with the even higher figure of $300 billion (against an Alphabet market cap of $870) – remaining fixed on the idea of spinning it out.
Back in 2018, Morgan Stanley estimated YouTube’s value to be $160 billion – putting it above the likes of Disney, Comcast, and Netflix.
The best ideas often seem painfully simple in retrospect. That there is a centralised online repository for short video content now seems like a basic fact-of-life.
Back in 2003, however, we were quite happily living without one; indeed, it even took the creators a couple of steps to work out their own vision for YouTube, which was orginally conceptualised as a dating site.
Of course, they soon realised the potential of a such a platform ran far deeper than digitised personal ads. Indeed, YouTube came to both foreshadow and undoubtedly shape much of the central facets of modern digital landscape – and by extension, the modern world.
User-created content, mobile optimisation, content algorithms, the primacy of video, embedded content, internet celebrities, likes (and dislikes), channels, subscribers, playlists: YouTube has played a part in bringing all of these notions to the mainstream.
It has also shared in its fair share of the deep-lying issues and controversies of the day too: from systematic copyright infringement, to hosting extremist content (and driving viewers to it), to exploitation – in this of case content creators – in the interests of driving revenue. Not to mention the horror to be found below the line – and of course the ever-present risk of fake news, which of course raised its ugly head once more during the coronavirus pandemic of 2020.
These unsavoury elements are exacerbated by the stupefying reach of the app – as is the amazing potential to share content across the world. In nearly every corner of the planet, where there is an internet connection, there will be YouTube. This is as close to a truly global app as it perhaps possible to get.
It makes sense. After all, what could be more universal than a short video? Particularly the music video, it seems. While the downfall of MTV might have seemed the death knell for the format to some, it is still truly alive and kicking on YouTube – to the extent where, in “Despacito” we may soon see a video that has been viewed once for every person currently alive on the planet – that is, if “Baby Shark Dance” doesn’t get there first.
YouTube is about more than content, of course. Content, and the eyeballs that it draws in might be said to be the fodder that feeds the real beast: online advertising. In this, YouTube once again is defined and defines the modern world, being a key part of one of the biggest advertising operations in all history.
YouTube’s ubiquity makes it invaluable to Google/Alphabet in this regard, being able to offer targeted global reach that only Facebook can rival. And now we finally are coming to understand just how much of contribution YouTube makes to Google revenue.
Online advertising is one of the defining businesses of the 21st century, so all is well for Google and YouTube for the foreseeable future, then? Well, perhaps not. Declining growth in Alphabet’s ad revenue (and in the market as a whole) show clearly that it is impossible to ever make such assertions. While it would be hasty to diagnose any sort of terminal decline, it would be equally hasty to suggest even Alphabet is impervious to negative trends.
Certainly, YouTube will play a key role in how the online juggernaut attempts to stymie this decline. The online ad industry will be watching, with the consequences likely to be felt far and wide. Will users be able to feel it too? Given the centrality of YouTube in the modern media landscape, as a simple fact-of-life, we can’t rule it out…