A Breakup of Google Could Leave YouTube on Its Own

Douglas A. McIntyre

Politicians and antitrust experts increasingly have called for the breakup of several large companies, including Facebook, Amazon and Alphabet Inc.’s (NASDAQ: GOOGL) Google, which dominates the search engine business and thus a huge portion of the online advertising in the United States. One of Google’s standalone divisions is YouTube, the largest video-sharing website in the world. It is a logical target to be pushed out on its own.

A break up of Google would need to take into account its search business, email operation (Gmail), Map product, Chrome browser and YouTube, at the very least. Each holds substantial market share in its category.

Google critics say it uses some of the products and services to leverage the sale and adoption of others, which creates a circle of dominance in a number of categories. The first among these is search, in which Google has an estimated 80% or more of the American market. Google and Facebook are estimated to control well over half of the American market for online adverting, which critics say gives them unprecedented price leverage.

YouTube users watch 3.25 billion videos a month. Many critics argue it takes the audience from both paid cable television and ad-supported broadcasts. If it stood on its own, at least it would not have the advantages of the distribution of the Chrome browser.

It is also hard for Google to argue that YouTube cannot be successful on its own. It has revenue of over $8 billion and a position in the video market that cannot be matched.