YouTube is increasing its focus on reaching viewers in the living room as YouTube TV subscriptions hit 8 million, the company announced in a letter on Tuesday.
“When I started at YouTube, people thought about content from major studios and content from creators as entirely different, but today that stark divide is gone,” CEO Neal Mohan wrote in a letter addressed to the YouTube community. “Viewers want everything in one place, from a live sports game to the BBC to Khan Academy and NikkieTutorials. And they’re watching YouTube the way we used to sit down together for traditional TV shows – on the biggest screen in the home with friends and family.”
According to Mohan, viewers globally watch an average of more than 1 billion hours of YouTube content their TVs every day. He noted that top creators Ms. Rachel and SypherPK saw their living room watch time double in the second half of last year.
Additionally, he touted growing consumer interest in its subscription services, with YouTubeTV reaching over 8 million subscribers and Music and Premium collectively surpassing 100 million subscribers, including trials. That’s a massive increase in subscribers — the company said it had 5 million YouTube TV subscribers in 2022.
“This year, we’ll continue to deliver a best in class experience for subscriptions and YouTube in the living room,” Mohan said.
Another priority for 2024 will be expanding on its support for creators.
Over the last three years, YouTube’s Partner Program has paid over $70 billion to creators, artists, and media companies, with over 3 million channels currently participating. The number of creators using channel memberships increased more than 50% last year.
Additionally, YouTube launched a pilot of its Creator Collective program last year in eight countries, which brings creators together to share experiences, build community, and collaborate.
“This year, we’ll help policymakers and partners across the industry see the economic and entertainment value that creators bring to the table,” Mohan said. “Being a creator is a full time job with an international audience, but most governments don’t account for creators in their labor data. We believe creators should be recognized for their work and creators at the top of their game should be acknowledged in key industry forums.”
In order to protect its creator community, YouTube said it would add new layers of transparency and protections to protect against synthetically generated content like deepfakes. In the coming months, the platform will introduce labels that will inform viewers when they’re seeing synthetic content. It also is working in coordination with parenting and mental health experts to create a “healthy online experience” for its more than 100 million young monthly active viewers.
Additionally, YouTube has also launched several new AI-based experiments to “empower human creativity.”
These include Dream Screen, which allows creators to make AI-generated backgrounds for YouTube Shorts, and Dream Track, which is designed to explore the possibilities of AI in music in collaboration with partners across the industry.
“We’re leveling the playing field and developing AI tools that empower everyone,” he said. “Our commitment to democratizing access to AI builds on the ways we’re enabling everyone to share fun videos right from their phones with Shorts. The next generation of storytellers has the power to create in the palm of their hands.”
The number of channels uploading YouTube Shorts has grown 50% year over year, with Shorts now averaging over 70 billion daily views.
“This year, we’ll continue to ensure AI is in service of creativity through our work with creative industries, in the rollout of AI-powered features, and as we unlock opportunities while building out appropriate protections,” Mohan added.
Mohan’s letter comes as YouTube recently posted a 15.5% year-over-year surge in ad sales during the fourth quarter of 2023 to $9.2 billion.
Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai told analysts during the company’s earnings call last week that YouTube is a $15 billion business on an annual basis and a “key driver” of the company’s subscription revenues.
Despite the platform’s growth, 100 YouTube staffers were cut in January as part of wider layoffs at the Google parent company.
Alphabet ended 2023 with 182,502 employees, down 4.1% year over year, and took $2.1 billion in employee severance and related charges for 2023. According to the New York Times, YouTube’s total headcount stood at 7,173 people at the time of the layoffs. Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat estimated that severance-related expense will be roughly $700 million in the first quarter.