I read an article back in June 2013 by Jason Calacanis called "I ain't gonna work on YouTube's farm no more". He never did a couple of follow-ups as promised, so I figured I'd take a stab at it. Since the articles publication, the landscape has changed rapidly, much of what Calacanis has hinted at has started to come to fruition, YouTube has been losing steam, MCN's are being swallowed up, net neutrality laws are changing, and new video platforms are all the talk.
YouTube is, and has been for much of the past decade, the single most dominant force in on-line video, but it is becoming less relevant for video creators as options amass. I've been working with on-line video before YouTube existed and I carefully watched them dismantle their competition on the premise of providing free video hosting, when bandwidth was extremely expensive. Now that companies like themselves and Netflix have all contributed in lowering bandwidth costs, the market is ripe for opportunity and change.
YouTube Market Share
Let me start with a glaring fact that supports my argument. Here is a 5 year trend of YouTube’s video streams starting from March 2009 through March 2014…..
Notice the shear dominance and stability from 2009 through 2012. As of 2013, something changed, something not many people have noticed. YouTube’s market share has dropped over 17% in less than 2 years, down to 23.7%. Not only is YouTube’s total video streams down, but the market around them has matured and developed.
YouTube Competition Continues to Grow
Companies like Facebook, Instagram, Vine, and Vimeo have all quickly grown their market share by simply adding video capability or by providing a more competitive video tool set. A few years back, major players like Yahoo, Microsoft, AOL and traditional media had no video provider options. They all relied on YouTube embed codes, driving YouTube's distribution and dominance. As the age old saying goes… times have changed.
These major web portals, traditional media/news websites, and newer platforms like Facebook want to control and monetize their own environments. The days of YouTube embeds is quickly dying and the rest of the web is starting to catch up. At the pace of decline we are witnessing with YouTube, they will be lucky to hold their dominance for another 3 years.
Bring on the Telcos
That's without mentioning the Telcos. The Telcos and cable companies like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T are aggressively looking to pass new laws against net neutrality. This could likely have a massive impact on businesses like YouTube and Netflix. On-line video controls the largest percentage of bandwidth and the Telcos are not going to sit around and let these companies use their infrastructure for free. It's no coincidence that we are hearing rumors of Time Warner looking at Fullscreen, or YouTube buying Twitch. When the Telcos and cable companies enter this space, that's when the real war begins.
What Does This Mean for Video Creators?
Going back to Jason's points made in 2013, YouTube is faltering on a few levels and no one has decided to do anything differently. This is what needs to happen…
- Give creators control of their customers (subscribers).
- Help creators link up with brands and advertisers.
- Help creators distribute outside of the YouTube eco-system.
- Allow creators to control their destiny and content.
Unfortunately the world of video is a controlled experience. MCN's are vying for ownership on content they did not make, YouTube controls your audience and advertisements, and there is no real good method to get distribution on the larger marketplace (video embeds are dying).
Calacanis asked how to out game YouTube? The answer is simple, give the value back to the creators. If YouTube's farm is losing like Calacanis and comScore suggests, it's on their own sword. But, when the large tech companies (like Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo, etc) and Telco's get involved, YouTube will have a lot more to worry about.