Google Parent Alphabet Beats Wall Street’s Q4 Estimates; YouTube Premium And Music Go Global

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Google parent Alphabet reported fourth-quarter earnings Monday that exceeded Wall Street analysts’ expectations, but a 2% gain in the company’s stock during the regular trading day was erased after hours.

Earnings of $12.77 per diluted share came in well above the analyst consensus of $10.86. Revenue of $39.28 billion beat the estimate of $38.94 billion.

Advertising on Google continues to be a major driver for the company. Revenue from ads grew 20% to $32.6 billion in the quarter.

Alphabet shares closed at $1,132.80, up 2%. In the initial minutes of after-hours trading, they dropped 3% despite no glaring flaw in the quarterly numbers.

Like its giant tech peers, Google is facing a restive population, not only in the investment community but among all customers wary of privacy lapses. CEO Sundar Pichai said during a conference call with analysts that the company is “compelled to do the right thing,” which entails “giving people better and better controls.” He promised “much more to come” in 2019.

Alphabet doesn’t break out a lot of financials for YouTube in its quarterly numbers, but Pichai offered a few interesting statistics. The video giant’s Music and Premium offerings are now in 30 countries, he said, up from five at this time a year ago.

With the overall monthly user base now at 2 billion, he said, the number of YouTube channels with more than 1 million subscribers has nearly doubled over the past year. The potency and scale of the platform were evident last November when Warner Bros ran a Black Friday promotion, enabling 17 million customers to stream The Lego Movie for free after they viewed a trailer for Lego Movie 2.

Ruth Porat, CFO of Alphabet and Google, said brand advertising is “growing at a strong pace. We’re particularly excited about direct-response” campaigns such as the one for Lego Movie 2.

Pichai said the effort to position YouTube as a targeted, direct-response vehicle — as opposed to a more general arena for TV-style ads — is still in its “early days. … There’s a lot more to do.” YouTube users come to YouTube not just for entertainment but for information and research, he said, so the company’s efforts to tailor the ad experience to the intent of a user’s YouTube visits is a “long-run opportunity,” he said.

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