Is YouTube Worth More Than Twitter?

YouTube logo
Source: courtesy of YouTube
The signs have been everywhere, but it was not until Wednesday that they were pieced together and one analyst firm took the plunge. Jefferies said that Google Inc.’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) YouTube business may be worth up to $40 billion, a value that is a third higher than the current market cap of Twitter Inc. (NYSE: TWTR). YouTube absolutely owns online video viewership, and it is on track to grab more than half of the estimated $17 billion in digital video advertising revenue projected for 2017.

This is not to say that Twitter and Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB), AOL Inc. (NYSE: AOL) and Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ: YHOO) don’t have a dog in the hunt, but all of them are starting from a big hole. According to Adweek, the Jefferies’ report noted:

With the most viewership by a wide margin (1 billion-plus people each month), the best ad-tech stack, improving content, ubiquity of service (including new extensions into the living room TV) and the skippable TrueView ad format, YouTube makes Google a top pick.

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People who think that YouTube is a collection of amateur video that only someone’s mother would watch have not been paying attention. Perhaps the most significant testimonial to YouTube’s power is Walt Disney Co.’s (NYSE: DIS) recent purchase of multichannel network Maker Studio for nearly $1 billion. Maker’s channels are streamed on YouTube and Disney plans to use Maker Studio as a promotional platform for its franchise platforms like “Star Wars” as a way to attract Millennials by improving both distribution and reach of short-form video using Disney-owned characters and stories as well as the company’s substantial production expertise.

Even though Disney owns one of the most lucrative of all pay-TV networks, ESPN, the company is guarding its flank by adding Maker Studio. So-called Millennials (ages 18 to 29) are not compelled to pay for cable TV. A recent study noted that just 63% subscribe to pay-TV, compared with 77% of those between the ages of 30 to 49. Some of that rejection of pay-TV may be affordability, but what may be a forced denial now often becomes a habit as time goes on and these younger viewers decide they can live just as well — or better — without pay-TV.

And that is where YouTube steps up. No matter how hard Facebook or Twitter try to duplicate YouTube, neither really has the format to dominate. As for AOL and Yahoo, both were too slow to get on the bus, so their growth path is likely limited.

Facebook and Twitter do have an edge, however, in mobile advertising, but that is a comparison for another day. On the streaming video front, YouTube stands alone.

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