Is YouTube the Future of Streaming TV?

YouTube C.E.O. Neal Mohan.
YouTube C.E.O. Neal Mohan. Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic for YouTube
Julia Alexander
June 6, 2023

Pop quiz: What’s the number one video platform, the number one destination for advertisers, which also has the fastest growing connected TV operating system, and hosts more than 2.5 billion monthly active users? If you’re not in the industry, you’d be forgiven for not knowing that the answer is YouTube

The 18-year-old social video platform gets far less media attention than Netflix, or even Hulu, its most direct competitor in the streaming TV market. But it’s not an exaggeration to say that YouTube (including YouTube TV, which offers 100 or so cable and broadcast channels for $73 a month) has quietly become a frontrunner in the battle for the future of over-the-top television. 

Of course, television is a fluid concept these days, with cable in terminal decline, social video (YouTube, TikTok, etcetera) soaring, and a dozen or so companies fighting to recreate (or re-bundle) the Pay TV experience for the streaming era. YouTube, despite producing original content and hosting billions of user-generated videos, isn’t quite competing in the same category as streamers, like Netflix or Max, whose growth relies on their pipeline of originals and well-worn old reliable hits, plus the algorithm that suggests them. Instead, YouTube seems to have broader ambitions. And it has several key advantages that could position Alphabet, its parentco, to compete with Amazon Prime Video as the platform of the platforms, the one upon which most other streamers rest.