• YouTube’s Momentum Continues

    A bit lost amid last week’s blizzard of news (e.g. AT&T-Time Warner deal, Google Fiber pausing, Vessel being sold and closed, Vine shutting down) was that Google’s strong Q3 results included yet another positive report on how well YouTube is doing. Senior Alphabet/Google executives have been touting YouTube’s progress for a while now, and last week’s earnings and call continued the streak.

    Of course, Google doesn’t break out YouTube’s individual results, so it’s impossible to know exactly what its financials look like. However, some analysts have estimated YouTube’s annual revenue at approximately $10 billion per year, which would translate to 10%-15% of Google’s revenue.

    On the earnings call, Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat, in pointing out key company growth drivers, cited YouTube second, only after mobile search. Porat said that YouTube’s growth itself is being driven by “video advertising across TrueView, with a growing contribution from buying on Doubleclick Bid Manager.”

    Later on the call, Google CEO Sundar Pichai noted that YouTube attracts over 1 billion users per day, watching hundreds of million of hours of video. Pichai highlighted the recent live streaming partnerships YouTube had with various news organizations for all 3 presidential debates. He said the live-streams gained 8.5 million+ hours of viewing, a 5x increase vs. the 2012 debates. In addition, election-related searches are up 550% vs. the same period in the 2012 election.

    Live-streaming is evolving as a battleground with Facebook, which has put a huge emphasis on live-streaming. Facebook is building up content, releasing new features and aggressively promoting Facebook Live (for example, I’ve seen several Facebook Live ads during this year’s World Series alone).

    On the monetization size, beyond TrueView, Pichai gave a shoutout to the new 6 second bumper ads, meant primarily for mobile. Pichai said the 6 second ads are “working really well” and are helping drive incremental reach and frequency for advertisers.

    While YouTube is focused on improved monetization, the company is clearly still in investment mode, as CEO Susan Wojcicki said recently, and is not yet looking to maximize profitability. Clearly a priority is enabling viewing on TVs, to drive longer, higher-quality experiences. Last week, YouTube took another step forward with Dish Network, announcing that YouTube was now integrated on its Dish Hopper 3 DVR. No doubt, with Comcast pursuing a Netflix integration on its X1 set-top box, YouTube must be on Comcast’s X1 roadmap as well.

    One investment that YouTube appears not to be making is in expensive high-quality long-form content to compete with Netflix, Amazon and others. At last week’s WSJD conference, Wojcicki said YouTube mainly sees itself as a platform which helps enable content creators to reach audience. It’s investing selectively to support YouTube Red, but compared to Netflix spending $10 million or more per episode, YouTube’s efforts look modest.

    One last point is that Vessel’s demise last week at least partially alleviates concerns that by not being sufficiently generous with content creators, YouTube was in turn creating an opportunity for startups to gain content creators’ attention (that was one of Vessel’s main value propositions). No doubt concerns will persist, but Vessel’s shutdown at least partially demonstrates that YouTube’s vast reach is a formidable advantage.