When you think of the biggest streaming services in the world, you likely think of Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, and Amazon Prime Video. Those are major players, of course, but actually none of those are the biggest video streaming platform. No, technically speaking, that title goes to YouTube. For example the July 2023 Nielsen report showed that Netflix accounted for 8.5% of all TV usage during the month, while YouTube accounted for 9.2% of all TV usage. That’s a just under half of the 20% figure that broadcast TV accounted for in the month.
YouTube has several advantages over the other streamers, but the main one is that its content is user-generated. Similar to TikTok, this means YouTube’s content library is constantly booming. Even during the Writers Guild and Actors Guild strikes, YouTubers kept uploading new content. Additionally, YouTube content is free and ad-supported, and it’s reliably up-to-date. Whereas scripted shows like Squid Game or Stranger Things take months or years to put out new episodes, YouTubers can reliably crank out 2 or 3 new videos weekly if they want to.
Even more production-heavy YouTubers like Mr. Beast can put out multiple videos per month.. Every month, year-round. That’s something scripted TV simply can’t do. And this streamer divide is generational. Just anecdotal, the teenagers and pre-teens I know in my life are much more likely to fire up the YouTube app and find Savannah Bananas mashup videos than they are to open Hulu or even Disney+.
For Hollywood, this presents something of an existential crisis. How do they capture that younger audience that is used to more frequent, shorter videos with their longer shows and movies that take years to complete? Some may argue the Hollywood system and the YouTuber economy are playing different games, and they would be right. But at the end of the day, more minutes are being spent watching YouTube than any of those splashy streaming services, and the trend of watching user-generated videos from apps like TikTok and YouTube is only growing. For months now, box office returns have shown that the cultural hold of superhero movies are waning, so the question must be asked: are YouTube channels like Mr. Beast and Good Mythical Morning a big part of the reason why? To me, it seems likely.