YouTube Is a Proven Juggernaut That Rivals Netflix in the Streaming Wars

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  • YouTube continues to grow at an astounding rate, with ad revenue up 83% from a year ago, Alphabet reported Tuesday.
  • Debates around which company will win the streaming wars focus on subscription services, but YouTube shouldn't be counted out given the money and time spent on the service.

Google's parent company Alphabet delivered another monster earnings report Tuesday. One of the brightest bits came from YouTube, which booked a whopping $7 billion in advertising revenue last quarter.

When we talk about the winners and losers in the streaming wars, the focus is primarily on the subscription services like Disney+, Netflix and HBO Max. But ever since Alphabet started breaking out YouTube's performance early last year, it's become clear it should be right there in the mix with the rest.

YouTube is not only a streaming video juggernaut that continues to report mind-bending growth, it is also turning into a key rival to the paid services that dominate the conversation around the future of television. And it has plenty of room to grow.

Take a look at some of the key points we've learned about YouTube's growth recently:

Quarterly revenue is on a par with Netflix, and it's growing at a faster rate. Alphabet said YouTube booked $7 billion in ad revenue last quarter. That's up 83% from the year-ago quarter. Compare that to the $7.34 billion in revenue Netflix booked during the same period. Netflix's revenue grew 19.4% from a year ago.

Also, practically all of Netflix's revenue comes from subscriptions. Alphabet only reports YouTube's advertising revenue, not revenue from subscription products like YouTube TV and YouTube Premium.

YouTube's television viewing is growing faster than ever. While the vast majority of YouTube consumption happens on phones, computers and tablets, Alphabet reported huge growth over the past year in people watching on television sets.

The company said 120 million people watched YouTube on a TV last month, up from 100 million per month last year. Philipp Schindler, Google's chief business officer, said on the company's earnings call Tuesday YouTube on TV is "the fastest growing consumer surface that we have."

It's the strongest signal yet that YouTube is encroaching on Netflix (209 million subscribers as of the end of June) and Disney+'s (103.6 million subscribers as of April 3) territory in the living room.

Nielsen says more people are watching YouTube and Netflix than any other streaming service. Research firm Nielsen released a fascinating study last month showing far more people still watch traditional television than streaming video.

But Nielsen's data also had an interesting ranking of time spent streaming on various services. YouTube and Netflix were the top two streamers, with each service accounting for 6% of time spent watching television.

YouTube's TikTok rival is also growing. Short-form video is the dominant trend on social media today, with TikTok leading the charge. YouTube has its own short-form video service, YouTube Shorts, designed to compete with TikTok. Alphabet didn't disclose how many people are using YouTube shorts but said viewing metrics jumped from 6.5 billion views per day in March to 15 billion views per day by the end of last quarter.

More room to grow. Nielsen's report last month showed there's still plenty of room for all streamers to grow as more people migrate away from traditional linear TV. Streaming is still just about a quarter of all television viewing. A rising tide lifts all boats. YouTube is poised to be one of the streaming wars winners thanks to its early lead.

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