Will YouTube Be Competitive with “Regular TV”?

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Image via CrunchBase

YouTube’s expansion of professionally produced video offerings worries the traditional television industry. Will YouTube provide an advertising-supported alternative that encourages more “cord cutting” to pay TV?

According to Todd Spangler, blogger at Multichannel.com, the number of views on YouTube’s original channels are low:

 One million viewers per month? That’s perhaps a halfway decent showing for a single TV show on cable in primetime, and an abysmal figure for broadcast television networks.

Noting that Google shouldn’t be counted out yet, and that YouTube is free to users, at least for now, Spangler concludes:

 But it still remains uncertain whether YouTube can make the leap to original programming on any sort of scale approaching regular TV.

Like much of the legacy television industry, Spangler insists on comparing YouTube metrics with “regular TV.” If YouTube’s metrics don’t match or exceed “regular TV,” then it cannot be a threat to “regular TV.” 

Spangler, and others in the legacy TV industry, miss the larger point here. YouTube does not need to meet or exceed the viewership of “regular TV” to be successful and to threaten the pay TV business model. 

 “Regular TV” is predicated on amassing viewership “tonnage” for advertisers, who are then willing to pay higher prices for larger audiences. But advertisers are aware that all that tonnage may not be a good deal for them. Shifting to metrics of “engagement” reduces the need to value quantity as highly. 

As a user-directed medium, which requires users to “engage” in order to view, YouTube is way ahead of “regular TV” in producing engaged audiences for advertisers. 

Evaluating YouTube’s competitive threat to “regular TV” will require considering other metrics that include more than just the number of viewers.

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