If YouTube were on TV it would be the 13th most popular channel. It would also be regulated, writes Julian Clover.
One of the highlights of the recent Cable Congress event in Lucerne was the presentation by YouTube’s head of partnerships, Donagh O’Malley. YouTube presentations, like those of its parent Google, and companies such as Apple and Microsoft are always highly polished. You get some detail, but not much, along with the occasional factoid, but don’t expect the speaker to stray too far from the chosen script.
One of the crumbs thrown out by O’Malley was that if YouTube was a TV channel then it would be the third largest in Italy and the 13th largest in the UK. The temptation was too hard to resist. Just what is the UK’s 13th largest TV channel?
Well, based on the Barb figures for the week ending February 13th, and taking audience shares as our guide, three channels can split the honour between them. These are Channel 4 +1, Sky 1 and the BBC News Channel. For the record the three below are ITV4, Sky Sports 1 and Dave. YouTube is obviously in good company and it’s funny that Top Gear clips are popular on both YouTube and Dave.
As platforms start to include YouTube as part of a regular TV service, the YouTube ‘share’ will presumably climb further, or will it? With audiences for linear television channels actually growing we currently have to add YouTube to the total rather than take it away. So far it has been seen as a bolt on, rather than an instead of.
Indeed, YouTube doesn’t meet the definition as being TV-like, the perception being that the site is full of skateboarding dogs. Except that it isn’t. This was one of the clichés that O’Malley had set out to dispel, highlighting the partnerships that have been struck with broadcasters such as Channel 4, which uploads its content to YouTube at the same time that it appears on its 4oD service.
The versions of 4oD, both on the Channel 4 website and relayed on Virgin Media and Talk Talk TV, are notifiable services with the UK’s co-regulator for on demand content ATVOD. However, YouTube does not fall into this category, and who would regulate its advertising in the unlikely event of it not being legal, decent, honest and truthful? A Swedish channel based in London has to play by UK rules; does this mean ATVOD has to swat up on the latest ruling from the Federal Communications Commission, or can we rely on a server closer to home to want regulating?
At a session at the Cambridge Television Festival two years ago, the then Google CEO Eric Schmidt got a verbal roasting from delegates because of the company’s perceived lack of investment in content. There was little of this from the Cable Congress, maybe in part because of the lack of real evidence of any cord cutting so far in Europe, at least when it comes to the premium subs that matter. Or perhaps cable really is all about the pipe.