By Frank Sinton
Can anyone really take on YouTube?
That’s the question driving an awful lot of conversation, investment, and activity in the web and mobile video space today. But is it the right one? Instead of focusing on what might replace YouTube the service — such as competing video aggregation sites potentially in the works from Yahoo and Comcast — a more interesting question is what will replace YouTube the format. And for that, one has to examine the burgeoning app ecosystem.
As Netflix CEO Reed Hastings so eloquently predicted last year, apps will replace channels on TV: “Existing networks, such as ESPN and HBO, that offer amazing apps will get more viewing than in the past, and be more valuable. Existing networks that fail to develop first-class apps will lose viewing and revenue.”
So how can apps and YouTube channels work together? YouTube creators start off with a YouTube channel because that’s where the audience is. But once that YouTube channel has engaged an audience, apps are a great way to further interact and communicate with that audience in a direct, more personal manner.
There are several factors driving this. For starters, apps are easier and cheaper to create than ever before. What was once a serious expense is now practically an afterthought as far as spending is concerned. Video app platforms (like Beachfront Media and those like us) are innovating rapidly with new features, more effective monetization options, and better content notifications.
But that’s just the creation of the app. The world that app exists in has several important changes to consider as well. First, the internet is getting faster, more reliable, and more available. While that helps spread access to YouTube, it also helps the accessibility to the apps that use the same distribution system to get into viewers’ hands.
Second, mobile smartphone sales and tablet sales will continue to increase worldwide. What’s more, they will be used increasingly as touch interfaces for TV programming — the “second screen” we hear so much about. Taken together, TV programmers are already conditioning viewers to access video from these devices.
Now here’s the turning point: Internet video advertising will be personalized, relevant, and easier to target viewers in-app against specific content. That makes video advertising more valuable, which means more money will come in through the format. And once content creators see mobile apps as an avenue of revenue and not just experimentation, you’ll see far more activity dedicated to them.
Like their TV counterparts, those behind the most popular YouTube channels will continue to establish their brands independently of YouTube as the financial rewards become clearer. They’ll create better, richer, and more engaging apps, and update them frequently with new improvements in response to the competition from other creators that will inevitably result.
Consumers then will grow hunger for deeper engagement with these channels through the unique experiences being created, leading to more views, more valuable ads, and the cycle continues.
To wrap this up, there’s an increasingly important motivation for exploring alternatives to YouTube. It’s not necessarily out of competition, or spite, or even money. It’s about control. YouTube is a fantastic place to find new fans, but once engaged those fans are looking for more, so why not give it to them via a format where the content, the distribution, the revenue, and the data are all accessible to the creator of that content?
A high YouTube channel subscriber-count is great. But converting those subscribers to downloading an app is better. YouTube is just the start of a content distribution strategy, not the end of it. The end game is the app, and that race is only just getting started.
Frank Sinton is the CEO of Beachfront Media, a video solutions platform for publishers, advertisers, and enterprises. Previously, he worked for Sony Pictures Entertainment as executive director of architecture. Beachfront Media is the everywhere video company that provides solutions for video discovery, video syndication, and video app development for managing and monetizing video applications across screens and devices. For more information, please visit www.beachfrontmedia.com.