After years of global orientation and constant growth, YouTube recorded an estimated 1.68 billion users in 2019. The streaming service is particularly popular with younger internet users, who sometimes even access the platform several times a day to entertain themselves or follow up on the latest news. In 2019, global user spending in the YouTube app amounted to over 562 million U.S. dollars, and while app download and usage are free, users can purchase additional in-app content like movies or TV shows.
In May 2019, more than 500 hours of video were uploaded to YouTube every minute, reflecting the increased appetite for digital video content among internet users. Videos categorized as entertainment, music, people and blogs accumulated the highest shares of views in 2018, and it is user-generated content that has created some of the biggest internet buzz in recent years. Having started as a platform for original content, YouTube launched a new creative class of content producers who draw huge audiences to the screen and have subsequently become celebrities themselves. Swedish gamer PewDiePie, for example, has become one of the highest-earning influencers worldwide after having amassed 103 million subscribers by 2020. YouTube’s other main avenue is corporate media content such as official music videos, which can go viral within a matter of hours and reach 100 million views in less than two days, as was the case with BTS in 2019. That year, Luis Fonsi’s Despacito became the most-viewed YouTube video of all time, with over 6.55 billion streams.
Seeing these viewership figures, it comes as no surprise that YouTube has become not only a springboard for influencers but also a powerful money-making tool for Google and its parent company Alphabet. In 2019, YouTube generated global advertising revenues of close to 15.15 million U.S. dollars and thereby accounted for approximately 9.4 percent of Google’s total annual revenue. Looking to profit from the platform’s massive audience, companies and brands like LEGO or Coca-Cola have started uploading video content on their respective brand channels. In the United States, Samsung, Target, and Hulu are among the leading YouTube advertisers in terms of impressions, launching pre-roll (skippable) videos, display ads, or other popular formats. While advertising on YouTube is more expensive compared to other social media platforms, it certainly pays off, which is why marketers expect an increase in usage of YouTube for advertising purposes in the following years.