YouTube Streaming On TV Screens Jumped 20% During 2020, Company Reveals

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By December of 2020, more than 120 million people streamed YouTube and YouTube TV on their TV screens, up 20% from the 100 million who did so in March.

That jump and other insights were highlighted in a pair of blog posts by the company. One was written by Neal Mohan, YouTube’s product chief and a keynote speaker today at an online streaming conference by the Interactive Advertising Bureau. The rise in TV viewing of YouTube has been emphasized by the company before, but it has particular relevance now for advertisers. In the 2021-22 upfront season, they will be able to measure their YouTube connected-TV campaigns with Nielsen for the first time.

“Viewers are leaving behind traditional primetime, and we’re finding at YouTube that the new primetime is personal,” Mohan wrote. “People want the freedom to stream anything whenever they want, whether it’s a favorite movie, a hard-to-find
music performance, a premiere sports event, or even a tough workout.”

While YouTube is thought of as a mobile phenomenon, where most of its viewing remains, the growth on TV screens has been staggering. During the key months of the coronavirus pandemic, with traditional TV programmers thrown off track by the absence of sports and the shutdown of production, viewers migrated to YouTube. The Google-owned platform became a key means of connection in the entertainment business, particularly for theater companies and cultural institutions. In December 2020, YouTube said, one-quarter of logged-in YouTube connected-TV viewers watched more than 90% of YouTube programming on the bigger screen.

Watch time on TV screens showed large jumps across various categories, with music content up 50% year over year, cooking up 40%, humor up 60%, travel up 40% and education content up 50%.

Mohan noted YouTube’s place in the larger context of the streaming boom of the past couple of years. “While much has been made about the complexity and fragmentation of audiences, the number of ad-supported platforms with scale is actually pretty small,” he wrote.

Citing Comscore data, he said 82.5% of connected TV reach in the U.S. is controlled by just five streaming services: Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Disney+. Only two of those (Hulu and YouTube) sell ads. An estimated 41% of all ad-supported streaming watch time in the U.S. happens on YouTube, Mohan added.

In his talk at the IAB conference, Mohan said YouTube Shorts will come to the U.S. and other territories in the “coming weeks and months.” The short-form offering is being tested in India, where it has accumulated 3.5 billion views, seeing the rate of viewing triple, the executive said.

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