Is Google’s message on YouTube starting to get through?
YouTube executives and spinmeisters have been pushing back more aggressively at the perception that the video site is a great big drain on Google’s bottomline, probably losing $200 million to $500 million a year by some estimates. These execs say that hundreds of major advertisers are taking spots on YouTube against “hundreds of millions” of video views every week.
The problem with this is the lack of precise details. How much revenue is YouTube generating from these monetized videos exactly (even approximately)? And how much does it cost to stream and store those hundreds of millions of videos every week? Google and YouTube decline to provide any numbers other than to say things are moving in the right direction. Wall Street and investors are yet to be convinced.
Goldman Sachs analyst James Mitchell is the latest to have a shot at a respectable estimate for YouTube. He says it will generate around $300 million in 2009. He also thinks the best is yet to come from YouTube — and that Google will see some benefit.
We believe YouTube revenue will grow at 40 percent year-over-year or faster in 2010 as YouTube is generally under-monetizing its home page traffic versus peers, and as its home page is a natural venue for studios to advertise new movies.
For Google investors, the most important part of Mitchell’s analysis is that he thinks display advertising, of which YouTube is a major part alongside DoubleClick, could add 1-2 percent to Google’s revenue growth.
In the meantime, the majority of the videos uploaded to YouTube are done so by its users — and as the world’s most popular Web video site YouTube has a lot of users. Over a 100 million in the U.S. alone according to comScore. Goldman Sachs’ Mitchell says:
We do not expect serving query-specific video advertisements to represent a substantial business for the foreseeable future given branded advertiser discomfort with unknown content, and given consumer unwillingness to tolerate 30-second advertisements against 60 seconds or less of content; however, Google does not need such advertising to make YouTube profitable given YouTube’s cost leverage against Google’s existing assets and homepage traffic.
YouTube is signing up more so called professional content such as its latest deal with Time Warner on Wednesday with shows like “Ellen Degeneres Show” and “Gossip Girls”. For now, most of what they’re getting from Time Warner and others like Disney is promotional clips. We asked about getting more full-length shows like Hulu, and executives gave a very ‘watch this space’ type of response.
YouTube, meanwhile, is working hard to show that getting people to watch more and more video online is not as easy as it looks and involves lots of clever technology and algorithms that its engineers have been working on. The idea — as the Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog explains — is to make sure “people don’t just watch one video when they come to the site”.
The company’s engineers are looking for ways to predict what topics will pique a user’s interest after they’re done watching a certain video, based on data about their viewing behavior.