YouTube is becoming cable TV’s greatest threat. It’s no news television has been facing fierce competition from online streaming services. With its diverse channels ranging from pranking to tutorials on baking, YouTube increasingly caters to a wide variety of audiences which television has trouble keeping up with. However, does this mean that the era of television is over and about to reach the end of its line?
For the past couple of years, YouTube has been making many strives making its service a professional media outlet. Recent surveys show that users around between the ages of 13-24 spend 11.3 hours watching YouTube and 8.3 hours for Cable TV as shown in Figure 1. It’s been encouraging its best content producers to create content by offering partnerships and premium ad commitments. Also, YouTube recently acquired former MTV programming chief Susanne Daniels. Later this year, YouTube is planning to launch its ad-free video streaming to compete with the likes of Netflix. It is also releasing a video game streaming service to compete with video platform Twitch.
YouTube has a greater variety of channels that users can browse. Since any user can take a camera and make content, there are a significant number of channels catering to niche markets. One is not forced to watch what is in a channel at any given time like traditional TV. Just by typing in a search word, you will get a query of videos related to your interest. This gives the user a greater sense of relatedness with the content they watch. While this is one of YouTube’s greatest strength, it doesn’t come without some drawbacks. Allowing everyone to upload content means that there will be a lot of clutter to search through. Even after you find related videos, you will still have to filter the lackluster videos from the professional ones.
Another issue is the buffering rate. For YouTube to truly compete with television, it has to offer seamless transitions between channels. It is estimated that 5 percent of YouTube videos lag due to re-buffering. To counter this, YouTube recently develop the “sliced bread” technology for streaming. It delivers the client pieces of the pre-buffered stream until the server can choose the best quality to stream the video to the client.
The most important aspect, however, that YouTube offers compared to cable TV is the feeling of connection it brings. Being able to comment on a video, read other users opinions, and discuss it gives YouTube a sense of community. It’s like if you’re watching a video with thousands of people in a virtual living room where you are free to share your opinions and discuss whatever you are watching. YouTube still has a long way to go until it fully replaces your TV set. With the steps it’s been taking, it might happen sooner than people expected.