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YouTube is back with a vengeance and is now more popular than cable

YouTube Popularity

During Google’s recent earnings conference call, Google chief business officer Omid Kordestani said that YouTube is now bigger than any individual US cable network when it comes to attracting 18-49 year olds, advertising’s most sought after demographic.

Despite YouTube’s apparent inability to generate much of a profit, the popular video sharing site has seen user engagement metrics skyrocket in recent months. Speaking to this, Kordestani relayed that viewers are spending more time watching YouTube videos than ever before. Year over year, the amount of time users, on average, spend watching videos is up an impressive 60%. Underscoring this tremendous growth, Kordestani added that this is the fastest growth rate in viewing time YouTube has seen in over two years.

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As one would expect, the increase in viewing hours is mostly attributable to mobile devices. In the last year alone, the average time mobile users spent watching YouTube clips more than doubled. More to the point, the average time users spend watching YouTube videos on mobile devices now checks in at 40 minutes.

The takeaway from this is that YouTube has successfully transformed itself from a site where users go to watch one-off videos into a site where users stick around for nearly an hour. Of course, this is no happy accident. Over the past few years, Google has rolled out a number of varying site enhancements in an effort to increase the site’s ‘stickiness’. From suggested videos to auto-playing of new videos following the conclusion of another, Google’s experimentations are clearly paying dividends.

“The number of users coming to YouTube, who start at the YouTube homepage similar to the way they might turn on their TV, is up over three times year-on-year,” Kordestani said. “Plus once users are in YouTube, they are spending more time per session watching videos.”

What’s especially interesting is that YouTube has taken on an entirely new identity in the eyes of young children.

Speaking to this point, TechCrunch writes:

For younger users especially, YouTube is already equivalent to TV. According to a recent study from Miner & Co., TV is no longer the first choice for kids’ entertainment with 57 percent of parents reporting that their child prefers mobile devices to TV when it comes to video viewing. Additionally, 58 percent of kids in households with tablets have their own device, the study also discovered, and half the kids, when disciplined, will have their tablet taken away and are left “only” with TV.

That has created a generation of kids for whom “TV is punishment,” the firm noted.

Ah, to be a kid again.

While all of this is promising, the question of profitability still looms overhead. Back in 2014, YouTube generated about $4 billion in revenue for Google while not contributing much in the way to the company’s bottom line. When asked about YouTube’s 2015 profitability during last week’s earnings conference call, Google executives were tellingly mum on the issue.

That said, the increased user engagement YouTube is enjoying can only help shift things in the right direction. Speaking to this point, Google did note that the number of advertisers running video ads is up 40% year over year. Additionally, the search giant said that many of its top advertisers are spending 60% more on YouTube advertising than they were last year.

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large for over 15 years. A life long Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW. When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.