What is YouTube’s “next frontier”? According to CEO Neal Mohan, it is building out the living room viewing experience and turning subscriptions into a meaningful business.
Mohan published his annual letter to the YouTube community Tuesday morning, providing an update on the video platform’s business, and unveiling “4 Big Bets for 2024.”
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Among those bets is the living room, where Mohan said viewers watch 1 billion hours on their TV sets every day, and where YouTube TV –the company’s streaming multichannel video service — now has more than 8 million subscribers.
That is a big number, up more than 3 million since 2022, when the company reported that it had more than 5 million YouTube TV subscribers. It also means that during a period when legacy cable and satellite companies collectively shed millions of TV customers, YouTube TV added millions. YouTube also added NFL Sunday Ticket this past season.
YouTube previously announced that YouTube Premium and YouTube Music now have more than 100 million combined subscribers.
“When I started at YouTube, people thought about content from major studios and content from creators as entirely different, but today that stark divide is gone,” Mohan writes in his letter. “Viewers want everything in one place, from a live sports game to the BBC to Khan Academy and NikkieTutorials. And they’re watching YouTube the way we used to sit down together for traditional TV shows – on the biggest screen in the home with friends and family.”
But Mohan also had three other “big bets,” and they are firmly focused on two priorities for the company: The creator ecosystem, and generative AI.
With regard to AI, Mohan touted the AI features and tools that the platform rolled out last year, and promised new additions in 2024: “This year, we’ll continue to ensure AI is in service of creativity through our work with creative industries, in the rollout of AI-powered features, and as we unlock opportunities while building out appropriate protections.”
When it comes to creators, Mohan writes that they should be “recognized as next-generation studios” and that the company is committed to developing an array of business models to support them. The YouTube Partner Program, Mohan adds, has paid out “over $70 billion to creators, artists, and media companies over the last three years.”
For comparison, YouTube’s total combined ad revenue for 2020, 2021 and 2022 was about $77 billion.
“This year, we’ll help policymakers and partners across the industry see the economic and entertainment value that creators bring to the table,” he writes. “Being a creator is a full time job with an international audience, but most governments don’t account for creators in their labor data. We believe creators should be recognized for their work and creators at the top of their game should be acknowledged in key industry forums.”
And relatedly, protecting the creator economy is critical, which means making sure the quality level remains high. Mohan notes that in the coming months YouTube will rollout labels for content that is “synthetically generated.”
“As we work across all of these priorities, our number one commitment is to responsibly protect the YouTube community,” he writes. “Our business as a streaming service relies not just on engagement, but on giving viewers and advertisers confidence that they can count on us to deliver high quality content. Protecting the creator economy is foundational to everything we do, and it’s good for business.”
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