Earlier this month, YouTube announced something pretty extraordinary at its “NewFront” presentation: according to Nielsen data, the online video-sharing service was pulling down more 18- to 49-year-old US viewers during primetime than any network, whether it be broadcast or cable. In fact, it was nabbing more eyeballs than the top 10 prime time shows combined. And that was just on mobile devices.
But the advertising community doesn’t need to freak out about the irrelevancy of TV just yet. Interesting as YouTube’s numbers are, they don’t tell the whole story, and they’re a bit weighted in YouTube’s favor. The video service is powerful and yes, a lot of people are watching it. But that doesn’t mean TV is dead (and it’s not the first time that death has been greatly exaggerated).
Interesting as YouTube’s numbers are, they don’t tell the whole story, and they’re a bit weighted in YouTube’s favor.
As International Business Times reports, YouTube’s numbers have some quirks. For one thing, they pull their viewership data from December, a month with inconsistent primetime turnout for TV viewing, thanks to holidays and shows on hiatus. They also compare viewers who sit down for a full show during prime time with anybody who happens to fire up a YouTube video, regardless of length. Given the ease of seeing a video on YouTube on a phone or tablet, plus their length, that skews numbers in YT’s favor — it’s way easier to see a YouTube video during prime time, it’s less commitment, and it doesn’t even necessarily exclude the people who are watching TV during that period. Even simple things like browsing Facebook or Twitter make it easy to watch a quick video during a commercial break or when talking with friends and family.
The Nielsen study also didn’t factor in prime time TV viewers who were watching their shows via streaming services or on non-TV devices — so anybody who was watching network TV through the web, or using streaming devices like game consoles or Roku set-top boxes, or watching on laptops or mobile devices wasn’t counted. Suddenly, the picture looks a little incomplete.
In general, all that amounts to taking a grain of salt when worrying about just how much TV’s ad share is getting eaten up by other services. Yes, YouTube has a huge and diverse audience, but it’s much clearer that the field of what we’re all watching is growing as new services become available. Streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu are drawing a lot of attention and a lot of viewers as well, but they’re attracting viewership in a different way from traditional TV. In essence, YouTube, streaming and TV are all showing us that there are many different market segments out there, and lots of different viewing needs to be addressed — all with a huge amount of success.
It’s a great time to be a consumer of media with so many options, not just in how to consume that media, but in the variety of cool, quality stuff to watch. YouTube is excited to be catching a lot of viewers, to be sure, but the big takeaway here isn’t that YouTube is the next wave. It’s that right now, there are lots of different waves, and different people looking to ride them.