YouTube’s Kyncl reveals why digital video will win the decade, in four words

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We’re early into 2016, but Robert Kyncl, chief business officer of YouTube isn’t just making predictions for this year; he’s calling it for the decade.

The last time Robert Kyncl, chief business officer of YouTube, delivered a keynote at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) he made a few predictions. He said that by 2020, 90 percent of all Internet traffic would be video traffic and that 75 percent of all video would be transmitted through the Internet.

Four years later, Cisco estimated that 90 percent of all Internet traffic will be video by 2019, one year ahead of Kyncl’s prediction. Internet’s percentage of video is also slated to be 60 percent by then. But Kyncl, whose last name rhymes with “tinsel,” stands by the number 75.

“This being Vegas, I am doubling down and standing by my prediction because I don’t think digital video will grow linearly; I think it will grow exponentially,” said Kyncl during his CES keynote yesterday. “I think digital video will become the single largest way people spend their time by the end of the decade, other than sleeping and working.”

© Credit Barry J Holmes ©

Here are four words describing why Kyncl thinks digital video will win the decade:

1. Mobile

Our world is growing increasingly mobile, with bigger screens, better experiences and more time spent each day. Over the last year, TV viewing dropped 9 percent among 18- to 34-year-olds, while they spent 48 percent more time on YouTube. Mobile was the largest driver of that growth.

Echoing Reed Hastings, the chief executive (CEO) of Netflix who delivered the conference’s opening keynote, Kyncl said mobile devices making consuming content more personal because you’re in total control of the experience.

“Think back to your childhoods: how many of you had to argue and compromise with your parents and siblings when deciding what to watch in the living room? Now how many of you had to do that during the holidays?” asked Kyncl. “The mobile phone is successfully changing the way we consume video into the way we consume books.”

2. Diversity

At one time, AMC was for old films, CNN was for watching anchors read you the news from behind a desk and MTV was for music videos. All three of those networks evolved by broadcasting their own original content: Mad Men, Anderson Cooper 360 and The Real World, which has been on for so long that it’s almost too old to be a cast member on itself.

YouTube has had a similar evolution, with one key difference: literally anyone can create content. In the younger generation’s eyes, YouTube stars, who were once normal people doing make-up and video game tutorials, are now bigger celebrities than regular celebrities. Michelle Phan has 7 million subscribers and a growing cosmetics empire, while Swedish gamer PewDiePie is the most-followed person on the entire platform.

“Anyone can create something that anyone can watch and it’s that openness that leads to content diversity,” said Kyncl. “Many of these creators started with nothing but a webcam and a YouTube account.

“It’s a lot more attainable to be the next PewDiePie than to be the next Tom Cruise,” he added.

3. Music

Music is an integral part of YouTube, which boasts the biggest music library on the planet. Continuing his previous point, Kyncl said that anyone’s music could become a phenomenon on YouTube.

Two of the hottest videos from 2015 were “Hello” by Adele, which garnered nearly 1 billion views within a week; and Silentó, who you most likely never heard of before “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” went viral. Even Justin Bieber, the platform’s most viewed musical artist, was discovered on YouTube by Scooter Braun long before “YouTube star” was a thing.

Kyncl brought Braun to the stage, adding, “My daughter thinks my job is cool because I know Scooter Braun.”

Braun, who is still Bieber’s manager and one of Time‘s 100 influential people in the world, said the most important thing is not to try and be everything to everyone. If you feel something from a video, it’s likely that someone else does, too.

4. Immersive

I have probably typed the word “immersive” 1 million times this week, as it goes hand in hand with virtual reality (VR), which was arguably the star of CES. YouTube got in on the ground floor, investing early in 360-degree video, bringing immersive (1 million and 1!) experiences to virtually everyone with Google Cardboard and partnering with GoPro for on an upcoming – and first commercially-available – 360-degree camera.

“VR is democratic and primed to grow exponentially,” said Kyncl.

If the past three days in Las Vegas were any indication, that’s another prediction for 2020 he can bet on.

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