YouTube hits 1.5bn viewers – now it wants to own TV and VR

23 Jun 2017

YouTube ventures into VR. Image: Sarut Chaprasert/Shutterstock

Is YouTube TV’s nemesis? Keep watching and your eyes will go square.

YouTube is now boasting 1.5bn logged-in users per month, according to company CEO Susan Wojcicki.

“That’s the equivalent of one in every five people around the world,” she exclaimed at video industry trade event VidCon.

‘We see more millennials using YouTube TV than any other generational group’

Future Human

She also revealed that users typically spend more than one hour per day streaming videos on mobile devices. The last time the video giant reported such a metric was in 2013, when it said it had surpassed 1bn users streaming video per month.

Wojcicki said that YouTube’s foray into original programming is paying dividends. To date, it has launched 37 original series and movies, and the YouTube Red Original series and movies have reportedly attracted almost a quarter of a billion views.

The CEO also offered a preview of 12 new projects coming to YouTube Red.

The new TV landscape

In March, the Alphabet-owned company revealed its new YouTube TV platform, a $35-per-month TV service that will see it square off against not only streaming giants such as Netflix, but also traditional cable TV companies.

The new YouTube TV service, which will come to the largest US cities first, will package a bundle of channels from 40 broadcasters and cable TV networks. It will also host prime-time TV shows that are popular in North America, including Empire, The Voice, The Big Bang Theory and Scandal, as well as movies from FX, kids programming from Disney Channel and Sprout, and a lot more.

The differentiator against Netflix will be what the video giant calls a “cloud DVR”, which will have no storage limits.

Wojcicki said that YouTube TV reflects the viewing habits of the millennial generation. “We are really excited about YouTube TV and pleased that it will be expanding to 10 more markets in just a couple of weeks, including: Dallas-Fort Worth, Washington DC, Houston, Atlanta, Phoenix, Detroit, Minneapolis-St Paul, Miami-Fort Lauderdale, Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne and Charlotte.

“YouTube TV was built for the YouTube generation that loves live TV but wants it delivered in a way that suits their mobile and flexible lifestyles. In fact, we see more millennials using YouTube TV than any other generational group.

“Now – with this expansion – millions more people will be able to stream their favourite live sports and must-see shows from top broadcast and cable networks.”

Go Go YouTube VR goggles

As well as its assault on traditional TV and rival streaming platforms, YouTube revealed a new look for its app and desktop site. It will now dynamically adapt to whatever size users want to view video, whether it is shot on a mobile phone, DSLR, square, 4:3 or 16:9.

The video platform is also moving to dominate the emerging VR and AR space, and has created a new format to make it easier and cheaper for people to shoot VR videos.

“We want to make VR more accessible and more affordable for viewers and creators,” said Wojcicki.

“The reality is, filming 360-degree VR videos isn’t easy for most creators, and some VR cameras are expensive.

“That’s why I’m thrilled that YouTube and Daydream have worked together on a new format, VR180, and new cameras, which make it easy and affordable for anyone to make VR videos. This format delivers 3D video while capturing 180-degrees around you.

“Creators only have to worry about recording what’s in front of them while viewers get an awesome, immersive experience with a VR headset, or a video that looks just as great on a phone as any other video. Best of all, we’re working with camera manufacturers like LG, Yi and Lenovo to build new VR180 cameras for as little as a couple hundred dollars – comparable to what you’d pay for a point-and-shoot,” Wojcicki said.

YouTube ventures into VR. Image: Sarut Chaprasert/Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years