YouTube says viewers watch 1bn hours of video daily

YouTube claims its closing in on TV saying viewers watch 1bn hours of video daily

YouTube has said that the amount of video people watch within its walls has passed 1 billion hours a day, marking a 10-fold increase since 2012.

The Google-owned platform revealed the news in a blog post, with analysts saying the figure threatens to eclipse US TV viewership. Nielsen data suggests Americans watch on average around 1.25 billion hours of live and recorded TV a day, a statistic which has been steadily dropping in recent years.

However, it is not a like-for-like comparison as YouTube has trumpeted a global figure, while the Nielsen data only spotlights the difference in time spent on TV by US audiences. Therefore the global aggregated viewing time on TV still far exceeds that of YouTube.

"A few years back, we made a big decision at YouTube. While everyone seemed focused on how many views a video got, we thought the amount of time someone spent watching a video was a better way to understand whether a viewer really enjoyed it," wrote Cristos Goodrow, vice-president of engineering at the video giant.

"It wasn’t an easy call, but we thought it would help us make YouTube a more engaging place for creators and fans," he added.

Time spent is a key metric for YouTube, and the latest figure indicates that it is almost 10-times more popular than Facebook or Netflix in terms of the amount of hours viewers are spending consuming content. In January 2016 Facebook said that users watch 100 million hours of video per day, while over on Netflix they watch 116 million hours.

Google's parent company Alphabet doesn't disclose YouTube's financial performance, but the Wall Street Journal claims sources close to the matter said it generated $4bn and broke even in 2014. As such, YouTube's viewing figures are one of the key indicators of the business' health.

For the past five years the platform has been building out algorithms to tap user data and serve personalised video recommendations. This, coupled with the fact that 400 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube each minute, have helped boost viewership.

UPDATED: This article was amended to show that the YouTube global viewing figure was not a like-for-like comparison with TV viewing in the US.

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Rebecca Stewart

Rebecca Stewart is a reporter at The Drum. She primarily writes news, analysis and features around brand marketing and digital innovation. She has interviewed key figures from the likes of Airbnb, Amnesty International, Unilever, Facebook and Spotify, as well as covering international events like Ad Week Europe, Dmexco and Ciclope.

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