YouTube clocked a staggering statistic late last year: viewers on the platform now consume 1 billion hours of videos every single day, reports The Wall Street Journal — a figure that could soon surpass the number of hours that people spend watching TV on a daily basis.
The Journal, which was first to report the statistic, attributes the 10-fold growth in daily watch-time since 2012 to YouTube’s development of artificial intelligence to create personalized suggested videos for users. YouTube confirmed the figure in a company blog post.
YouTube’s 1 billion hours of daily watch-time gives it a vast leg up over competitors like Facebook and Netflix, which in January 2016 reported 100 million hours and 116 million hours of daily watch time, respectively. According to Nielsen, Americans watch 1.25 billion hours of live and recorded TV every day, though that figure has been tumbling in recent years, per the Journal.
In 2012, the Journal reports, YouTube began to update its video recommendation algorithm to prize overall watch time across the platform as opposed to overall viewcounts. Initially, viewcounts fell as viewers spent more time watching videos — though today that strategic shift appears to have paid off in spades. As opposed to only suggesting videos based on other videos that users have clicked after watching a particular video, a former YouTube staffer told the Journal that the company partnered with its Google Brain division, which develops machine learning software, to help YouTube delve even deeper into viewers’ potential areas of related interests.
“The corpus of content continues to get richer and richer by the minute, and machine-learning algorithms do a better and better job of surfacing the content that an individual user likes,” YouTube’s chief product officer Neal Mohan told the Journal of the milestone. (Last summer at VidCon, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said that 400 hours of content are uploaded to YouTube every minute).
The last time YouTube disclosed its user base was in 2013, when it said it had 1 billion monthly users. Now, the Journal reports, 2 billion unique users watch at least one YouTube video every 90 days.