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YouTube ‘poses existential threat’ to linear TV business, warns Evan Shapiro

YouTube is the biggest TV channel on the planet now and poses an existential threat to traditional broadcasters, media commentator Evan Shapiro has claimed.

Evan Shapiro

The producer and New York University professor spoke about the growing influence of the video sharing platform at a Royal Television Society event in London on Tuesday.

During a debate that saw industry experts reveal their 2024 predictions for the screen sector, Shapiro insisted YouTube is tearing up the rulebook for how audiences discover and consume content.

“YouTube is the biggest TV channel on the planet and one of the biggest competitors for eyeballs in the TV ecosystem,” he said. “It poses a truly existential threat from an audience retention and revenue standpoint. The difference between it and social media platforms like TikTok, Facebook and Snapchat, is that YouTube is on living room TV sets.

“Barb statistics show that 60% of people in the UK between the ages of four and 15 watch YouTube on connected TV on a regular basis. Parents of children under the age of 12, meanwhile, will tell you that kids watch YouTube pretty much every single day.

“There’s a real risk that broadcasters are going to lose this generation of consumers forever.”

The comments come just a few weeks after Robyn Sumner, business director at UK brand marketing agency EssenceMediacom, claimed YouTube viewership will leapfrog that of Netflix this year.

Sumner referenced data from Barb which found that hours spent watching YouTube on TV grew by 32% in 2023, while Netflix’s growth diminished to just 0.4%.

“If this rate continues, we will see them swap places, in terms of average daily viewing, in December 2024,” Sumner said. “YouTube has something for everyone. Kids love watching gaming videos, while adults enjoy a variety of shows, from how-to guides to entertainment.”

Shapiro suggested traditional linear broadcasters must themselves learn how to promote programming on social media if they are to stand any hope of competing with YouTube in an increasingly digital TV ecosystem.

“For broadcasters and producers, YouTube has discoverability,” he told guests at the RTS event. “[Channel] Cocomelon launched on YouTube, as did [online influencer] Mr Beast, who has just signed a US$100m TV deal with Amazon. If you want to get content direct to a consumer base and build an audience, social video is a great place to be. Broadcasters need to embrace it.”


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