February 14 wasn't just a day for couples to frantically scramble for restaurant reservations--this year it marked the tenth anniversary of YouTube's domain registration. Its first video, "Me At the Zoo"--which featured a pithy description of elephants', er--well anyway, that was uploaded on April 23, 2005.
That YouTube has had a vast influence on the evolution of online video can't be disputed. Creating a central location for online videos along with a free and easy way to upload them--not that it hadn't been done before, but YouTube did it best--drove the emergence of the individual "creator," the rise of multichannel networks, and concepts like authenticity, immediacy and engagement.
The Guardian compiled a list of 10 of the most influential YouTube videos in its decade-long history, including the above elephant-rific video.
But while YouTube has had one of the largest impacts on the OTT video space, its influence may have reached its apex. Competitors from Facebook to Twitter to enterprise-class online video service providers are drawing away both content creators and advertisers.
A report in The Drum notes that "Facebook has the power to socialise its content in a way that YouTube cannot," with users having multiple ways--likes, shares and comments--to increase a video's views.
Right now the impact is minimal at best: Google Sites, which includes YouTube, still outranks all other video sites in terms of visits, according to comScore, racking up over 163 million unique views on desktop computers in December. Facebook, the second most viewed site, saw just 96.6 million uniques in the same period.
Top U.S. online video content properties viewed on desktop computers in December 2014. (Source: comScore)
YouTube's mobile app, on the other hand, routinely ranks behind Facebook in comScore's Mobile Metrix report. It reached 52.5 percent of users aged 18 and over in December, and 50.8 percent of users in November.
Top 15 smartphone apps, December 2014. (Source: comScore)
Granted, Facebook is used not just for video but for social media as well. But the company has made some significant changes to its online video strategy in the past year, aligning itself to better reach a mobile-first audience and working to make its videos appeal to advertisers.
That mobile strategy isn't a fluke. Studies have been dropping for a few months now showing that consumers are increasingly using mobile devices--primarily smartphones--to watch video content. A new Nielsen report said that millennials in particular are ditching linear television, declining 10.6 percent in the fourth quarter. While SVOD-based binge watching is probably helping keep TV sets lit among this group, the capability of watching video on any device they choose at any time is clearly drawing 18-to-34-year-olds away from traditional TV.
The shift to mobile viewing and its app-centric ecosystem could draw viewers away from YouTube as well, as their favorite channels become accessible with one tap. YouTube creators can app-ify their channels through a service provided by iLOOK--which gives them an additional ad revenue stream as well.
Enterprises looking to provide a more tailored online video experience are also looking for platforms other than YouTube.
The real game changer, for YouTube, pay TV, and other multiscreen players, is where the money goes. Where will companies allocate their advertising budgets in 2015? While analysts are calling for advertisers to shift a much bigger percentage of their money to online video, it remains to be seen whether companies will remain cautious this year. This year's advertising upfronts will heat up around the end of April, when the industry will get a better look at how well TV networks and digital properties' negotiations go with advertisers.
What will YouTube look like 10 years from now? Will it still lead the pack in terms of views and engagement? Considering the volume of change--in technology, in capital and in consumer behavior--that marked the last decade of online video, both YouTube and competing entities like Facebook, Twitter, Vine and others may be unrecognizable.--Sam