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Q&A: Why YouTube focuses on the creator economy to drive viewership

Made possible by Nielsen.

While TV investments have remained resilient, YouTube is looking to drive viewership by focusing more on its creator economy to produce content that relates to consumers’ passions and interests. In a conversation with Google's Brian Albert, managing director, we discussed why linear TV is largely going to revolve around live sports and news and connected TV (CTV) is going to be the main topic in every Upfronts negotiation this year.

eMarketer: What is YouTube currently prioritizing when it comes to the upcoming season of the Upfronts [and] NewFronts?

Brian Albert: We're going to be talking a lot about our creator economy because it's our creators who've really been fueling our growth over the past several years. No one's really making a distinction between "Am I watching broadcast cable, online video, or streaming video?" To viewers out there, it's one and the same because we're so programmed right now in this on-demand world, where you and I can watch whatever we want, whenever we want, across whichever device.

And that's important because we're all essentially voting based on what we choose to watch. Over the years, we've done a bunch of research to understand what drives viewership on YouTube. And what we consistently find is that people care more about the content that relates to their passions and interests [more] than anything else.

Over the last few years, we've paid out over $30 billion to over 2 million creators who are uploading more than 500 hours of content to YouTube every single minute, which is a lot of money. It's over $10 billion a year.

eMarketer: How did the pandemic expedite consumers watching YouTube, and what are those implications for this year's Upfronts and NewFronts?

BA: When we launched Google Preferred—now YouTube Select—before the 2014/2015 Upfront, YouTube was a desktop-first platform. Now, we're officially a CTV-first platform. So what you'd expect is that in a rational market, media dollars eventually are going to follow eyeballs and viewership. I mean, it's clearly a futures market, but if you consider the fact that pay TV subscriptions have been declining since 2011, when there were over 100 million pay TV households, now we're in the mid-70 millions, which is a level we haven't seen in like 30 years. Most analysts forecast that we're going to bottom out somewhere in the mid-40 millions. Yet along this journey, linear TV investment has remained remarkably resilient.

That said, I truly believe we are quickly accelerating to a future where linear TV is largely going to revolve around live sports and news, and virtually all entertainment programming is going to be consumed through three to five apps on your phone and connected TV. And while we've seen so many new streaming platforms launched, particularly over the past couple of years, what's remarkable to me is that the top five—Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Disney+—will still represent 75% of total viewership.

eMarketer: Why did YouTube decide to hold Brandcast for the first time during Upfronts week, and how was that decision made?

BA: We spent our first 10 years in the NewFronts. Given everything we’ve talked about, if there was ever a time for us to want to help our clients break down some of these legacy silos and bridge the gap between linear TV, digital video, and streaming video, it's this year. As I mentioned earlier, for consumers, nobody's differentiating between any of these. Video is video and for many of our clients, this big shift to streaming means that the broadcast cable reach they used to rely on really can't deliver at the same levels that [it's] been able to historically.

This interview was conducted on April 28, 2022.

To read the full interview, please download "Industry Insights: Upfronts and NewFronts." Download Now.