Advanced Television

Research: YouTube becoming indispensable

June 14, 2024

YouTube is now the #1 platform and #2 media company in the US on Nielsen’s gauge of TV consumption. But even these bright numbers don’t do justice to YouTube’s growing importance in the entertainment ecosystem.

Hub’s semi-annual Battle Royale survey captures which entertainment platforms and subscriptions each respondent uses, across categories: premium video, gaming, music, social media, reading, podcasts, etc. Then respondents are asked to assign each source into one of two categories:

  • Must have: “It’s something my household can’t do without”
  • Nice to have: “I might miss it but could get by without it”

Of the 5 sources most often rated a “must have” by users, 4 are YouTube brands.

When Hub fielded this question in May 2023, two-thirds of those using the free YouTube service said that it was a “must have” service – essentially tied with subscribers of Netflix and PlayStation Plus, and behind readers and Spotify users.

Just a year later, the top 5 looks quite different: YouTube Premium is ranked as a must-have source by 75 per cent of users, a fraction of a permcent behind Spotify. The rest of the top 5 spots are occupied by YouTube, YouTube TV, and YouTube Music.

The shift is similar among younger users:

In May 2023, YouTube was the second most likely to be rated a ‘must have’ by users 18 to 34 (just behind Spotify). The remaining three spots were taken by Apple Music, PS Plus gaming subscription, and Netflix.

By May 2024, YouTube claimed 3 of the top 5 spots (and Netflix had been bumped from the top 5).

“These results are a reminder that number of subscribers isn’t a proxy for engagement,” said Jon Giegengack, principal at Hub and one of the study authors. “YouTube Premium has far fewer users than Netflix, for instance.  But more of those who use YouTube Premium find it to be indispensable. As the streaming entertainment market matures, keeping existing users is a higher priority than attracting new ones. And ‘must have’ sources are less likely to be cancelled.”

“The most recent findings also show the growing role that YouTube is playing in the entertainment ecosystem,” added Mike Durange, co-author of the study.  “YouTube TV, YouTube Premium and YouTube Music don’t have the scale of the original YouTube. But those who do use them find them very valuable. Plus, there are almost unlimited opportunities to grow these secondary platforms by marketing them to the massive number of people using YouTube itself.”

The data cited come from Hub’s Battle Royale – Wave 5 study, conducted among 3,000 US consumers who are entertainment decision-makers with broadband, age 18-74.

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