In the wake of Amazon’s unveiling of a YouTube-like competitor called Amazon Video Direct, analyst Carlos Kirjner of research firm Alliance Bernstein sought to determine the Google-owned platform’s sweeping scale.
“One day, [YouTube] will be as large — if not larger — than most — if not all — legacy media companies, and it is playing a central role in the secular shift of brand advertising budgets to the Internet,” Kirjner writes, per this Barron’s blog post. “Yet, we know ridiculously little about YouTube.”
His findings are staggering. To date, Kirjner found that there are roughly 2 billion total videos on YouTube, which have been watched a total of 39 trillion times — totaling 196 trillion minutes (or 400 million years) spent. “It would take a team of 286 people their whole [lives] to watch all videos on YouTube,” writes Kirjner, who is an SVP and senior Internet analyst at Bernstein.
Despite its massive reach, however, viewership tends to be intensely concentrated. For instance, the top 1% of YouTube channels have accounted for 93% of all the platform’s views since its inception. This statistic would seem to indicate that YouTube is wise to be investing in its top creators, such as with marketing campaigns spotlighting popular channels and funding original content. At the same time, however, the platform is so sweeping that “YouTube’s scale protects Google and limits the value of any single content creator, channel or multi-channel network operator,” Kirjner says.
As for other rivals, like Facebook, Kirjner believes that YouTube will ultimately emerge as the world’s leading digital video platform. “User-generated content, cute as it may be, is unlikely to support pre-rolls for brand advertisers at scale,” he writes. “Even if we saw at-scale alternatives to YouTube emerge [within Facebook], it is probably the case that there is enough total user engagement and advertising dollars in TV land to support both,” he writes
Other analysts have predicted similarly stunning stats about YouTube in recent months. Eric Sheridan of global financial firm UBS, for instance, estimates that by 2020 the site will have generated $27.4 billion in revenues.