YouTubers are the new broadcasters. But who can learn from who?
Over the past 14 years, YouTube has grown from a garage-based startup to one of the biggest media properties on the planet. The data tells its own story: more than 1.9 billion logged-in users visit YouTube each month, and every day people watch more than a billion hours of video - 70% of that on mobile devices.
It’s fair to say that YouTube has matured. It’s now available locally in 91 countries and in 80 different languages; while Google has paid out more than $2 billion to content owners over the past five years. Top YouTuber DanTDM reportedly earned $18.5 million in 2018, broadcasting to over 20 million subscribers and racking up 14 billion views.
YouTube vs broadcast TV
To put the YouTube audience into some kind of context (although not a direct comparison), BBC iPlayer saw 11.5m requests per day back in January 2019, while YouTube’s biggest channel, Indian music video colossus T-Series, pulled in over 3 billion views (64.19 million per day) during the same month.
- Listen to YouTube's Cécile Frot-Coutaz at IBC2019
- Hear Twitch Senior Esports Program Manager Ryan Chapley at IBC2019
- Read more about live streaming
In December 2018, Netflix reported that 45 million people had watched Bird Box, a Netflix-owned thriller starring Sandra Bullock. But compare that to 1.63 billion views for T-Series content in December 2018. Netflix also claims around 130 million customers in total, and says it streams 100 million hours a day to TV screens in the US.
The democratisation of video production
The compelling element of YouTube (aside from the astonishingly reliable delivery mechanism) is that the tools used by many of the content creators are so simple. Although the biggest channels will use anything up to professional broadcast hardware and software, even big names such as PewDiePie (96.8 million subscribers) and Joe Sugg (8.1 million subscribers) are often using surprisingly common, semi-pro equipment.
Cameras such as the Canon EOS 70D are common, as are Rode Microphones such as the Videomic Rycote and Manfrotto tripods. Software regularly includes FinalCut Pro, Adobe Premiere Pro and even iMovie (perhaps due to the number of MacBook Pros we can see on Vlogger desks).
Increasing professionalism and knowledge
Of course, given that 70% of YouTube’s content is consumed on mobile phones, the fact that many content creators often use mobile phones to record, edit and livestream should not come as a shock. Indeed, with a relatively new smartphone providing a 4K-capable recording device with significant processing power and wireless connectivity, a host of powerful on-device editing apps have sprung up to cope with demand. These include Adobe Premiere Rush and Splice, while the imminent arrival of 5G bandwidth will certainly only accelerate demand here.
While chroma key compositing has become commonplace even in vlogging circles, the host of variations on overlays built into fast editing apps (including Kinemaster) is eye opening, as well as the widening use of professional-grade tools such as After Effects and Blender.
YouTube isn’t the only broadcast competitor
With barrier to entry so low, and the prizes for success so high, competition is white hot, and of course not restricted to YouTube as a platform. While many vloggers have made their name and reputation on Google’s behemoth, there are a host of alternative and emerging streaming communities that include Twitch, Vimeo, Facebook and Instagram.
This diversity is always a healthy environment for innovation and creative thinking, but the immediate nature of vlogger feedback means that adapting to trends as fast as possible is a built-in requirement for success.
Responding to immediate, real-time analytics and evolving techniques and content styles to deliver compelling content is a founding principle of the space. Traditional broadcasters might do well to pay some attention for those reasons alone.
Kate Russell, TV presenter and Twitch streamer, has worked in both worlds. One the one hand, streamers could up their professionalism by improving their editing and narrative skills, not to mention improve their ethics. But, “I’d be inclined to say that broadcasters have more to learn from streamers than the other way around,” she says.
“As viewing habits change with the new audience demographics coming of age, I believe if we don’t make broadcast more like the streaming experience, we [broadcast and broadcasters] will become less and less relevant.”
IBC2019 has a focus on YouTube content creators and monetisation, with a keynote speech from Cecile Frot-Coutaz, Head of YouTube EMEA.