YouTube is 10 years old, but what will it look like in 2025?

16.02.2015 15:05

YouTube’s first video may have been
uploaded on 23 April 2005, but the
website’s domain name was registered on
14 February. Hence the 10th birthday
milestone this past weekend at a time
when Google’s online video service is more
popular than ever.
From zero to one billion viewers in a
decade is some journey, but what lies
ahead as YouTube moves towards its
teenage years? Here are some predictions.
Videos, music... and games
In 2015, YouTube remains very much a
video service, albeit one that’s in the
process of launching a streaming music
offshoot: YouTube Music Key. Over the
next decade, expect it to expand into an
all-encompassing entertainment service,
where you’ll not just watch and listen:
you’ll play.
Games, and interactive experiences. In
both cases partly driven by YouTube’s
evolution into the world’s largest catalogue
of virtual reality content. But also because
games will sit neatly alongside shows and
music in YouTube’s entertainment mix.
People watch games videos in their
hundreds of millions on YouTube now, and
they’ll be playing games in similar
numbers there by 2025: a huge casual
gaming platform following a lineage that
includes Facebook and the app stores of
Apple and Google.You’ll watch the Super
Bowl, not just its ads
Every time the English Premier League
auctions off its television rights, there are
rumours that YouTube will be joining the
likes of Sky and BT in the bidding. Every
time – so far – those rumours haven’t led
anywhere. By 2025, though, live sports will
be a key part of YouTube’s video offering.
Not just football football, but American
football, and basketball, and cricket, and
any other sport you can name with a
following – from mass to niche. And not
necessarily because YouTube has outbid
traditional broadcasters for the rights,
even if that’s the likeliest short-term
As the barriers between traditional
broadcasting and online video topple,
YouTube will emerge as a partner for
sports leagues to retain their rights and go
direct to fans. Its relationships with US
leagues the NFL and NBA for highlights are
a tiny sliver of what’s possible.
By 2025, every match in every league could
be available on-demand, globally, on
YouTube through those leagues’ own
channels – at least for those that have done
deals with the company.
A personalised EPG that
pushes shows to you
YouTube will remain a mammoth
catalogue of video to watch, but by 2025 it’s
going to be much, much smarter at
understanding your tastes, drawing on
everything that its parent company knows
about you as well as your YouTube history.
Yes, you’ll be able to search for something
to watch, but the default mode for
YouTube will be a lean-back channel of
content customised on the fly for the
people watching right now: it’ll know that
through a combination of cameras and
microphones on the device being watched,
and data from the nearest Nest smart-home
hub, obviously.
A couple of episodes of the latest
Scandinavian crime drama; a couple of
music videos by new artists YouTube
knows you’ll like; a half-hour sketch show
automatically cut together from your
favourite YouTubers; a personalised news
bulletin; and all the while micro-targeted
YouTube will orchestrate the viewing not
just on the main screen(s) in the home, but
on each family member’s personal screens
too: the curator of every evening’s multi-
screen viewing.
Accurate ratings ... and
sentiment analysis
By 2025, the memory of a TV ratings system
based on a limited sample of viewers will
seem comically archaic: anyone making
video will have real-time data on how
many people have watched, but also what
they thought of it.
In 2015, we’re being warned by some smart
TVs that any private conversation could be
recorded and uploaded to a server. By
2025, this will be the main feedback loop
for digital entertainment: vast servers
humming away to process our uttered
views on shows, ads, characters and
Shouting at the telly will finally have the
potential to influence the people making
whatever you’re watching on it. Although
your conversations about family, politics,
culture and whatever your cat dragged in
last night will also be just more grist to
YouTube’s recommendations mill.
Googlebox-style co-viewing
for all
The Hangouts feature of today’s Google+ is
the template for the future of social
television co-viewing, where everyone is a
star in their own continuously-running
episode of Gogglebox.
We’ll watch shows, sports and other live
events remotely with our friends and
family: an audience of muted video
thumbnails laughing and crying along
with us, and chatting about them
How will producers and brands guarantee
these kinds of watercooler moments? By
paying for them, of course. From music
video premieres to new dramas or party
political broadcasts, there’ll be a rate card
for bringing people together to watch.
With lots of zeroes on it.
Today’s YouTubers will be
tomorrow’s moguls
In 2014, YouTube’s biggest star PewDiePie
generated 4.1bn views from his channel.
Where will he be in 2025? Quite likely
running one of the world’s biggest
entertainment networks, if he fancies the
task. Today’s fresh-faced YouTubers will
be tomorrow’s superbroadcasting moguls.
PewDiePie – Felix Kjellberg – has already
hinted that he thinks he could do a better
job at running a multi-channel network
(MCN) than current companies in that area:
“So far, all the networks have been
managed in such an incredibly poor way,
it’s embarrassing really,” he said in
October 2014.In 2015, a lot of television industry execs
think PewDiePie and his fellow online
stars will jump at the chance to become
“proper” TV stars, but they’re more likely
to continue focusing on YouTube and
become its equivalent of those TV industry
execs: bossing thriving networks of their
Rivals: Facebook, Netflix,
HBO ... and Snapchat?
In 2015, Facebook is shaping up as the most
realistic-looking threat to YouTube’s
dominance of online video. Facebook users
already watch 3bn videos every day on the
social network, and it’s been striking its
own deals for professional content while
reportedly courting YouTube’s stars to
start uploading videos directly to its
Fast forward 10 years, though, and this
isn’t an “online video” market: it’s just
video (and music, and games, and virtual
reality ...). A market where YouTube’s
rivals are Facebook, Apple, Google and
Amazon, but also Netflix, HBO, and
perhaps even Snapchat if its youthful
audience grows up keeping their habit.
Today’s startups, such as Vessel, also have
their own ambitions to become the online
age’s equivalent of ESPN, MTV, CNN and
Discovery – the new brands that sprang up
from the era of cable television. The
challenge for traditional TV firms is how
they fit in to this landscape of duelling
technology companies trying to dislodge
YouTube’s crown.
Reasons for celebration or
These predictions aren’t all made in a
celebratory fashion. Some of these
developments could be exciting, but others
horrifying – or at least distinctly troubling
for various reasons.
Do we want to hand our entertainment
choices over to algorithms whose workings
are entirely mysterious to us? What
happens to serendipity: discovering things
by accident that we didn’t know we’d love
– or, for that matter, things that challenge
our beliefs?
Is the trade-off between privacy and
personalisation worth the risks? Do we
trust YouTube and Google to respect the
creators of the shows, music and games
that we enjoy?
And perhaps most pressingly, will all of
these questions be rendered moot by the
emergence of something else – likely
dreamed up by someone who’s a teenager
now – that makes YouTube a historical
footnote by 2025 rather than the master of
our entertainment?