YouTube: The Power of the Global Everything Network

The fact that viewers are flocking to digital video platforms for content is not an addition to the traditional “broadcast” viewing habits of a new generation, but a replacement.

This past two weeks at the Newfronts, presenters on every stage in Manhattan have declared that the golden age of digital video has arrived. The numbers are clear: Viewership is up by more than 53 percent, and global ad-supported video platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat are all experiencing massive growth.

Out of these options (and more that are emerging seemingly every other day), only one — yes, one of these platforms — is poised to become what I am calling the Global Everything Network.

The fact that viewers are flocking to digital video platforms for content is not — as the most optimistic television executive might have hoped — an addition to the traditional “broadcast” viewing habits of a new generation, but a replacement. According to Nielsen, TV viewership among millennials dropped by nearly 11 percent between last September and this past January alone. It would appear that a choice is being made and traditional TV is quite simply losing viewers to digital video.

Of course, within the field of digital video itself, competition among the platforms is growing, too. Many of the platforms offer the same type of video content from media companies such as Vice Media, Tastemade, Warner Music and BuzzFeed, to name a few. But again, even with an overlap in programming, only one of these platforms will merit the title of the Global Everything Network.

Facebook video, along with Twitter’s recently launched Periscope video product, offers the power of “news feed viewing,” which is an experience that most resembles scrolling through the old TV channel guide with your remote, only better.

In Facebook’s feed, the video auto-plays without sound, and with a simple click (or thumb swipe on mobile), the full video plays with sound. Voila: Programming brought to you without interruption right to your News Feed. Is it any wonder that Facebook’s 1.4 billion users are watching 3.5 billion videos per day?

Of course, Twitter has followed suit, testing an auto-play video feature of its own.

Snapchat’s new Discovery product brings the “tune-in” TV experience to a younger generation with the platform’s ability to hyper-engage with viewers who know the content they are watching will soon disappear. To an older generation, this recalls the time before digital-video recorders, when you actually had to be home in time to watch your favorite show, or hit record on your VCR. To the on-demand generation, Snapchat’s unique viewing experience is flat-out addictive. Currently, Snapchat offers content from 11 media companies, including CNN, Yahoo and Warner Music.

And then there’s YouTube. Following its inception, YouTube became most famous for its videos featuring dogs on skateboards and all varieties of cat videos. Over the past few years, YouTube has successfully begun to market itself beyond this outdated, narrow view of the platform.

This time last year at the Newfronts, a campaign was launched in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago to showcase to advertisers some of the new stars who have emerged on YouTube, including Bethany Mota, Michelle Phan and chef vlogger Rosanna Pansino. These personalities were already well-established stars within the millennial crowd.

At this year’s YouTube Brandcast event, attendees were reminded of a recent Variety study reporting that among teenagers (aged 13 through 18), YouTube stars were far more famous than mainstream celebrities.

So much attention has been showered on these new video stars and their massive audiences that Vessel (a potential YouTube competitor with a subscription model) has been attempting to woo (with large advances in exchange for temporary exclusivity) some of the biggest YouTube creators over to its newly launched venture.

However, YouTube is the only digital video service poised to become the Global Everything Network because it’s not about big stars — it’s about breadth and depth of content.