Now with well over a billion users, YouTube has gone from strength to strength since being bought by Google in 2009. For so-called millennials in particular, going down a rabbit hole of YouTube videos spanning a variety of genres has become commonplace. The video sharing platform is awash with all kinds of content, from music to lifestyle vlogs and unboxing videos. It is an entertainment and educational platform, in a similar method to television, but it works in a different way. Not only is a lot of the content user-generated, unlike TV, but it’s also consumed differently – on demand, typically in bite size chunks, and shared across social media. YouTube’s enormous popularity begs the question, is it taking over the role of traditional TV subscriptions such as Sky? Here we look at the main factors behind how YouTube is challenging the dominance of TV in public entertainment.
Technology transforms the way we interact with the world around us, and video content is no exception. YouTube not only offers a broader array of content than traditional TV networks, it also allows people to customise their viewing experience. Users can access videos on just about any topic whenever they want, from any device, and also curate their own channel subscription lists. In an age where we increasingly expect almost instant gratification, this format is tailored to modern habits of consuming entertainment. TV shows, even news programmes, are already adapting to this shift in behaviour. Shows such as John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight has enjoyed a rapid growth in popularity internationally by uploading segments of the broadcast to YouTube. Given this success, it doesn’t take much to imagine how this YouTube era style of broadcasting could become more widespread.
Wide variety of content
In the world of TV, the contents of programmes is largely dictated by media networks. Because their editorial policies are driven by ratings, TV networks have to appeal to as wide an audience as possible. As a result, the variety of programmes can’t always reflect a wide diversity of taste and interests, leaving some groups of viewers underrepresented. In contrast, YouTube is for the most part an open platform, allowing anyone to upload the content they want without the creative restrictions of TV networks. This means that content creators have significantly more freedom and, in turn, viewers are presented with a far larger choice – you’re likely to find just about any kind of interests catered for on YouTube. Furthermore, it also enables a variety of novel technological innovations such as immersive VR videos. When you also consider the fact that it’s perfectly possible to make good money on YouTube, it becomes clear why many creatives are turning to the platform over traditional career routes in the media.
Inclusive and interactive
Watching TV is a passive experience, at least in the sense that you can’t directly participate. As previously mentioned, anyone can contribute content to the platform freely (within reason), but they can also directly engage with a community in a way that’s not possible with TV. YouTube is much more than just an online video gallery, it’s also a social network. It’s not often considered as such, but it bears many of its hallmarks. As this article points out, not only does YouTube allow users to subscribe to channels, rate videos, and communicate with other users, it also runs on advertising in order to offer the service for free. Furthermore, the platform recommends videos to users based on their viewing habits, so it’s a tailored experience. This element of interaction and the ability to shape our experience offers something completely different to traditional TV.
Of course, TV is still hugely prominent, but the times are changing. We’re starting the see a shift in the way we consume audio-visual media, and the points above are surely major factors behind the growing influence of YouTube over traditional television broadcasting.