Netflix, Beware: YouTube Could Bring in More Money in 2021 | Chart

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Both companies can expect $30 billion in revenue this year — but they’re growing at two different rates

The fast-approaching object in Netflix’s rearview mirror? That’s YouTube.

The Google-owned video giant on Tuesday reported $7 billion in Q2 revenue, which, considering it marked an 84% spike from the same time last year, is impressive enough on its own. But YouTube’s big second quarter stood out for another reason: YouTube will very likely bring in more money than Netflix this year.

The two companies are already neck-and-neck when it comes to quarterly sales. Netflix last week reported $7.3 billion in Q2 revenue — only slightly more than YouTube’s haul for the quarter. And for the first half of 2021, Netflix reported $14.5 billion in sales, compared to $13 billion for YouTube. Netflix may have a slight lead right now, but once you factor in how fast the two companies are growing, it’s easy to see YouTube pulling ahead by the end of 2021.

The chart below helps make it clear: YouTube’s recent revenue growth is blowing Netflix’s out of the water. Netflix’s revenue the past two quarters increased 24% and 19% year-over-year, respectively; YouTube’s revenue jumped 50% during the first quarter, before its 84% jump during the spring.

At the same time, Netflix isn’t bringing in subscribers like it did during the early days of the pandemic. Netflix added “only” 1.5 million customers during Q2, and even lost 400,000 customers in the U.S. and Canada — its most lucrative markets — for only the second time ever. This was in stark contrast to the 10 million new customers Netflix added during the spring quarter last year.

Netflix, in part, is a victim of its own success, and the company has been quick to point out the pandemic’s “pull forward” effect on subscribers. Netflix can also anticipate its subscriber growth rate to jump a bit during the back half of 2021, with popular shows like “Stranger Things” expected to return. And that’ll be needed, since — barring a major price hike on subscribers — Netflix depends on new customers to keep pushing its quarterly sales higher.

Youtube, on the other hand, could see its revenue growth rate slow down over the last half of the year — and still come out ahead of Netflix. If YouTube can report 67% year-over-year revenue growth over the next two quarters, it would bring in about $32 billion this year. (This projected growth rate is the midpoint between YouTube’s Q1 and Q2 growth rate.) Netflix, after factoring in the company’s guidance and expected sales, is on track to bring in about $30-31 billion. (For reference, Netflix reported $25 billion in revenue last year, compared to $19.7 billion for YouTube.)

This is where you might say it’s silly to even compare the two companies. YouTube is one wing of a giant tech company; whereas, Netflix has built itself from the ground-up to become the dominant name in streaming. YouTube offers a mix of original shows, user-generated content, and old videos to attract viewers — videos that are often only a couple minutes long; whereas, Netflix depends on a mix of original and licensed series and movies; and Netflix is subscription-driven, compared to YouTube’s reliance on ads. No doubt, there are some key differences between the two.

Ultimately, though, YouTube and Netflix are competing for the same thing: viewers’ attention. Every minute someone spends on Netflix is a minute they’re not spending on YouTube, and vise versa. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, for one, understands the battle.

“Our largest competitor for TV viewing time is linear TV,” Hastings said in April. “Our second largest is YouTube, which is considerably larger than Netflix in viewing time. And Disney is considerably smaller — we’re sort of in the middle of the pack.”

If YouTube can report another quarter or two with similar revenue growth to the one it just did, Hastings may need to rearrange his hierarchy of Netflix competitors.


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