YouTube declares premature victory in TV wars

03 May 2013

The battle between television and YouTube is over. And television lost.

At least if you ask Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt, who said in a presentation to advertisers Wednesday that Internet video has already displaced TV in terms of viewership.

YouTube – owned by Google – registers over a billion unique visitors every month. And while in the past Google has positioned YouTube as a reinventer of TV, the strategy now seems to be to declare YouTube as something completely different from it, reports the Sydney Morning Herald:

"It's not a replacement for something that we know," said Schmidt. "It's a new thing that we have to think about, to program, to curate and build new platforms."

[…] "I thought that YouTube was like TV, but it isn't. I was wrong," said Robert Kyncl, YouTube's global head of content. "TV is one-way. YouTube talks back."

Well, they would say that, wouldn't they?

And technically it’s true that YouTube is – and always has been – a different proposition to linear TV, and has decidedly influenced the way people watch video content, particularly with younger people. (According to SMH, YouTube execs made much of the fact that more 18- to 34-year-olds watch YouTube than any cable TV channel.)

But declaring TV “over” is laying it on a little thick.

The linear TV business is hardly dying – at least not in Asia-Pacific. According to recent figures from Digital TV Research, pay TV revenues (subscriptions and on-demand) will grow by $2.1 billion this year to $33.9 billion, and approach $44 billion by 2018, with China, Indonesia, Pakistan, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam the top growth markets.

That said, Digital TV Research expects pay TV revenues to drop in South Korea and Hong Kong between now and 2018. But those are already extremely mature and saturated markets for pay-TV. In North America, pay-TV revenues peaked last year, but operators are still expected to add another 1.5 million subscribers this year, and 7.5 million in the next five.

Meanwhile, a recent CASBAA report said that the number of satellite transponders required by Indian TV broadcasters and DTH operators to support growth in TV channels (including HD) will double or triple over the next five years – to the point where India’s domestic satellites won’t have the capacity to handle the demand.

There’s no doubt that YouTube represents the direction that video is eventually going to go in terms of on-demand viewing and interaction. But by most indications, it’s going to co-exist with linear TV for a long time yet.

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