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Incluvie News - YouTube Overtakes Netflix with Teen Viewers

YouTube surpasses Netflix but there is more to the story.

In a groundbreaking shift, YouTube has overtaken Netflix in popularity among teenage viewers, marking a notable trend revealed by the 46th semi-annual Taking Stock With Teens survey conducted by Piper Sandler Companies. Piper Sandler Companies, a prominent investment bank, partnered with DECA (formerly Distributive Education Clubs of America) for this survey. Notably, Piper Sandler’s equity research is a leader in the field of teen research, boasting an extensive database of over 60 million data points tracking teen preferences and spending habits since 2001.

Conducted as a self-reported study, the research encompassed over 9,000 teenagers, with an average age of 15. In a surprising turn of events, YouTube has now captured 29.1% of daily video consumption among teen viewers, while Netflix has dipped to 28.7%. Notably, this marks the first time in the 22-year history of the survey that YouTube has overtaken Netflix. This shift arrives against the backdrop of ongoing media headlines about layoffs and price hikes plaguing Netflix. Some industry pundits attribute this transformation to the intensifying competition in the streaming service realm, pointing to YouTube’s robust position as a free provider of online video content.

Depending on who you ask, YouTube witnesses a staggering influx of content, ranging from approximately 700,000 hours of ‘fresh’ material to around 3.7 million total videos uploaded daily. While assessing quality remains subjective, even if just 1% of these videos can be considered high-quality content, YouTube would effectively match the 36,000 hours of total content on Netflix every five days. With YouTube’s capacity to consistently offer a deluge of content, the appeal of waiting for traditional TV shows and movies, which often require time-consuming filming and post-production, has waned. At least that is the narrative by some naysayers. A growing chorus of voices has begun to declare the demise of traditional media.

But I think there is more to the situation than meets the eye.

Horror Stories Animated (Wansee Entertainment)

I’m a YouTube guy. Despite being a Millennial rather than a teenager, I appreciate the allure of curating a personal video feed. YouTube provides a wealth of options for a diverse range of tastes. Whether I’m in the mood for horror stories to accompany my October binges or sociopolitical commentary focusing on the Black community (from channels like Themis & Thoth, Calvin Michaels, and Cynthia G), YouTube offers a platform for engagement with storytellers, experts, and activists dedicated to combating colorism and anti-Blackness (via channels such as Colorism Healing, Wansee Entertainment, and Foreign Man in a Foreign Land). I can tune in to Joy Reid on MSNBC to stay updated on the latest political developments, and then effortlessly switch gears, delving into the captivating lore of Jurassic Park (thanks to channels like Klayton Fioriti and The DinoFax). What’s fantastic is that content can be as short or as long as I desire. I can even indulge in the nostalgia of watching compilations of my favorite moments from TV shows and movies, such as the powerful powers and fight scenes of Charmed or X-Men: The Animated Series. YouTube truly offers a vast and versatile entertainment landscape.

Yet, therein lies the proverbial conundrum. While I can indulge in compilations featuring my cherished shows like Family Guy or pivotal moments—such as Ash’s triumphant ascent to Pokémon Champion—I’m left wanting when it comes to watching the actual full-length episodes. These compilations often feature zoomed-in footage, visual distortions, altered soundtracks, and episodes stitched together to sidestep copyright issues. The videos available on YouTube provide an intriguing alternative to what is commonly dubbed as reality TV binge-watching. Still, they have yet to fully replicate the allure of original storytelling found in movies and traditional TV shows.

Looking at YouTube TV, it’s a subscription service that commands nearly $50 a month. However, its movie offerings don’t stand out in terms of both pricing and variety, leaving much to be desired in terms of original content.

Dara Starr Tucker

It is premature to proclaim the “King is Dead” so early in this story. Firstly, this assertion is based on a self-reported study, albeit a highly reputable one, relying on teens’ estimates of their online activities. Moreover, the margin of difference in favor of YouTube stands at a mere 0.4%. While this could potentially signal a future trend, it’s far from revolutionary at this juncture. Furthermore, although Gen Z’s predilection for shorter content aligns with YouTube’s platform, but they still watch a lot of streaming platforms. YouTube falls short in the realm of original, exclusive content when compared to more conventional streaming platforms. YouTube primarily revolves around user-uploaded videos, offering instant gratification, but it’s not synonymous with the kind of shows and movies that follow through on extended narrative promises. The closest YouTubers come to resembling TV shows is by producing reality TV-style content across various topics or presenting news and variety shows.

It also seems that many commentators have taken the report at face value without delving deeper for a more comprehensive analysis. A notable weakness of the study is its perplexing classification of TikTok as purely social media, which prevents a direct comparison with YouTube and streaming services like Hulu and Netflix. TikTok retains its status as the favored social media platform among teenagers, maintaining a considerable lead over Snapchat and Instagram. Curiously, TikTok is essentially a video-sharing platform, much like YouTube, making the decision to segregate it seem political and perhaps generational. This separation also appears to serve a convenient purpose, as including TikTok would shift the narrative from YouTube’s overtaking of Netflix to a battle for a distant runner-up position.

More importantly, the survey highlights that teen spending has actually dipped for the first time since the end of the pandemic, and inflation has surged to become the second most pressing concern among teenagers. In this ranking, inflation only lags behind concerns about the environment, and it sits just a few percentage points above worries related to racial equity. In essence, these mounting concerns about inflation and the broader economy have prompted teenagers to cool off in their spending habits.

Parents’ discretionary income is intrinsically tied to teen spending, and with inflation causing financial anxiety, it’s understandable that families may scale back their expenditures on streaming platforms. In this context, the narrative appears to underscore the appeal of free video platforms like YouTube, especially as Netflix repeatedly increases its already hefty subscription prices. Yet, it’s vital to remember that beyond teenagers, there are diverse demographics, and many viewers still crave the continuity of storylines offered by TV series and standalone movies. In light of this, we shouldn’t discard the advantages of more conventional streaming services entirely.

To do so would be to throw the proverbial baby out with the digital bathwater.