Did the Trump Campaign Get the Memo?

Issue No. 9

In Issue No. 7 posted in mid-August, I asked if U.S. politicians should adopt the creator playbook. To my surprise, I noticed President Donald Trump employed a thumbnail tactic reminiscent of a full-time YouTube creator in his October uploads.

I was not the only person who noticed this. Creator economy publication No Filter covered this topic in a recent article, stating the President is copying popular YouTube creator Logan Paul.

The colorful and youth-focused thumbnails were a step up from a series of videos posted in September that featured the Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany glancing down at her binder of talking points. How much does this make you want to click?

President Trump’s campaign really started leaning into YouTube in July, posting over 500 videos in the month.

The video onslaught in the early summer months did not result in an increase in viewership. July and September uploads fell flat, while content posted in August and October has resonated with viewers on YouTube. 92-percent of President Trump’s view count for 2020, and 81-percent of Mr. Biden’s view count, has occurred between the months of August and October.

The external optics show a spike in viewership and engagement, while the true story is the views are mostly purchased.

In regard to Mr. Biden’s campaign, between October 16 and 21 they uploaded five videos to YouTube, and kept them unlisted so they are not visible when browsing the channel. Each video was 15 seconds in length and served as the creative for a TrueView advertisement.

The themes of each video spanned ‘America Needs a Plan’ to ‘Family” to ‘Together’. 64.5-percent of the total views on Mr. Biden’s channel in October were from these unlisted videos boosted by paid advertising. Interestingly, the campaign capped each video at 22 million views. I would love to know how that figure factored into their media plan.

President Trump’s team is securing display advertisement real estate on YouTube, having purchased the masthead on the homepage of YouTube twenty times this campaign, including Election Day. Do they realize the masthead is mainly addressing desktop users, and the majority of YouTube users watch videos on their phone and tablet?

In terms of channel management, the President’s digital team is taking a different approach to Mr. Biden’s team, keeping any video used as a creative asset for a TrueView advertising buy as publicly accessible on his channel. Videos featuring endorsements from public figures like Herschel Walker received 87-percent of their views in the first 24 hours, with the majority of the views coming from paid advertising.

On Twitter, the President’s preferred platform for communication to his base, his campaign team has leveraged the platform as a key distribution channel for video content. Nearly 60-percent of the video upload volume for the entire year has come in the last three months.

Boosted views seem to be the trick for the President’s digital media team. The surge in October is a late campaign push to get his message out to voters in battleground states.

Kantar Media has monitored battleground state campaign spending on television from the Republican and Democratic parties. In the past six months, the President’s campaign has spent $69 million in Florida, $47 million in Pennsylvania, $44 million in North Carolina, and $20 million in Georgia.

In contrast, Mr. Biden’s campaign has spent $92 million in Florida, $70 million in Pennsylvania, $21 million in North Carolina and just $3 million in Georgia.

My estimate is Mr. Biden’s campaign spent $28 million in October alone on the YouTube advertisements I mentioned above. That figure is comparable to the monthly average on television advertising. Hit the youth vote, and the 55+ vote across the two mediums.

Both campaigns are also trying their hand at capturing live viewers online. Between the months of August and October, they went live on YouTube and Facebook hundreds of times.

Facebook appears to be a better channel for both campaigns. President Trump’s campaign averaged 829,000 views in the first 24 hours, while Mr. Biden averaged 213,000 views in the same time frame. On YouTube, the average was ~50,000 views across the two campaigns.

How does this all add up on November 3? We know top creators have immense influence over their community of viewers. How about the President and Mr. Biden?

The President has 89-percent more views on YouTube and Twitter than Mr. Biden. Are the campaigns speaking to the converted, or are they finding new fans? We shall soon see.

For those with a right to, please exercise your right to vote.

Will Fans Create One of the Year's Biggest IPOs?

Issue No. 8

Creator fandom will hit a whole new level on October 15, when Big Hit Entertainment, the management group of Korean pop sensation BTS, will start publicly trading in South Korea. 

My kids are aware of the IPO and expressed interest to me to buy shares. Last Tuesday, retail investors bid 58.4 trillion won (US$50.3 billion) to get their hands on shares in the management company -- more than 600 times the value of shares on offer. My kids will have to settle for BTS merch. 

In 2019, BTS became only the third music group in the last fifty years to have three No. 1 albums on the Billboard 200 chart in less than twelve months. The Beatles and The Monkees share the feat. In August, the group’s single ‘Dynamite’ hit No. 1 on the Billboard singles chart in the US, and was the first time a group from South Korea has achieved this performance. 

Nearly 32 million people listen to BTS music on Spotify every month. Since the start of 2020, BTS has generated two billion views on YouTube, and added 13 million new subscribers. 24-percent of those views occur in the US market, followed by Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico and the Philippines. South Korea ranks No. 11. 

The global appeal of BTS on YouTube propelled ‘Dynamite’ to 98.3 million views in its first day on the platform, and 378 million views by the end of the first month. 

Billions of views and 226 million engagements year-to-date on YouTube has resulted in big business for Big Hit Entertainment. 

97.4-percent of Big Hit’s US$503 million in 2019 revenue came from BTS. Though the contribution percentage is forecast to decline in 2020, it will still be north of 85-percent of the company’s total revenue. In addition to the heavy reliance on one asset, Big Hit has to contend with the fact that each of the group’s seven members have to serve in the Korean military by the age of 28. 

Big Hit will raise over US$800 million in the offering, valuing the company at US$4.1 billion. The founder, Bang Si-hyuk, will become a billionaire. Korean gaming firm Netmarble, and private equity firm STIC Investments, stand to see a 500-percent valuation increase since they invested in 2018. 

How about the septet? 

The trainees turned stars have been allocated 1.68-percent of the company’s shares prior to the IPO. Each member should have a personal stake worth just shy of US$8 million on October 15.

Is less than 2-percent the right allocation for BTS? It is unclear to me what revenue or profit share deal they have with Big Hit, and how their stake in the company stands in comparison. How much are retail investors placing a bet on the future value of BTS versus Big Hit? 

One share in Big Hit is similar in price to one concert ticket, which fans cannot consume this year due to Covid. Show support instead by buying their merchandise, or spend disposable income on an asset? It is easy to see why the demand for the IPO is so strong. 

What is the equivalent in the US market to the Big Hit IPO?

I have heard top creators on YouTube speak in the past year to their audience and suggest they can be an ‘investor’ in the creator’s enterprise by buying their merchandise. Spend more on $25 T-shirts and $60 hoodies, and the creator can keep making content. Some will upgrade to a US$5 million home and thank fans in the home tour video for making it all possible. How is that for an exchange as an ‘investor’? 

Is the equivalent to Big Hit having Scooter Braun take his company public, allowing fans of Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift to invest in the company that discovered, developed, and manages Bieber, and also now owns part of Swift’s music catalog? Or fans of kids properties CoCoMelon and Blippi investing in the holding company that controls its IP? I don’t see the equivalent being fans of actors wanting to invest in the talent agency that represents the actor for a portion of their career. Institutional investors are the likely IPO targets for Endeavor, and if CAA or UTA ever try to go public. 

Blackpink in your area

In terms of a precedent in South Korea, one can look to YG Entertainment, the company that developed Blackpink. I overheard one of my daughter’s friends express earlier this month that she does not get the hype over Blackpink. My daughter would beg to differ. 

Earlier this month the group released ‘The Album’, billed as its debut Korean-language studio album. The group collaborated with US artists Selena Gomez and Cardi B. ‘Ice Cream’, a track produced with Selena Gomez, has over 330 million views on YouTube. Quite strong, but not at the same level as ‘Dynamite’. 

Blackpink does however surpass BTS in aggregate views. The female quartet has over four billion views year-to-date on YouTube, and has added over 16 million subscribers in the same period. 18-percent of their audience is in the US (their largest market), with Brazil, Indonesia, Philippines and Thailand rounding out the top five viewer markets. 

YG Entertainment was formed in 1996 and went public in South Korea in 2011. Their stock price is up 75% since the start of the year, and up 147% since March, adding US$457 million in market value. YG found success with Psy and his hit single ‘Gangnam Style’ in 2012. YG’s stock price peaked that year at a level 50-percent higher than it is today. 

YouTube global search trends since 2012 show the rise and decline of Psy (in red), the gradual rise of BTS (in yellow), and the related interest in Blackpink (in blue). 

YG has shown it can transition from the success of ‘Gangnam Style’ to nurture and develop new artists and assets to the company. Big Hit is already working on its diversification from a BTS-dependent business. It acquired two other agencies, Pledis Entertainment and Source Music, while nurturing and expanding trainees to debut new acts.

Lastly ...

  • While BTS has had no problem climbing the view charts on YouTube, the No. 1 Billboard position remained elusive without support from meaningful rotation on US radio. Big Hit’s US-based label partner Columbia sought to change that, and commissioned two British musicians to pen an all-English track for the group. The writing session was done in a day over Zoom. “We went for lunch, had some pasta, we had a coffee, came back and then, yeah, it was done,” said co-writer Jessica Agombar in a press interview. Agombar said she was seeking to write a track that fans worldwide could sing. “I looked at all the tweets from them,” Agombar said. “And I thought, ‘Wow, the fanbase are literally doing the A&R, the PR for this band.’”

  • On October 1, Blackpink paired up with YouTube for the live music video premiere of ‘Love Sick Girls’, the third single released from ‘The Album’. In the 15-minute pre-show hosted by radio DJ Little Bacon Bear, over 800,000 peak concurrent viewers tuned in for news and interview content. The pre-show garnered 7.5 million views in the first twelve hours of on-demand viewing. The music video that followed saw 1.6 million peak concurrent viewers, and 39 million views in the first twelve hours of on-demand viewing. There were over six million fan engagements with the music video in the first twelve hours. 

Should Politicians Adopt the Creator Playbook?

Issue No. 7

Last Fall I attended a lunch reception in Los Angeles hosted by Joe Biden and was asked by an organizer what his campaign could do to attract more young voters like myself. The demographics in the house were a stark contrast to a similar reception I attended months prior with Cory Booker. 

I definitely felt young at the Biden event, though compared to the U.S. voter population, I am middle aged. In the upcoming U.S. presidential election, less than 90 days from now, 37% of the eligible voters are Millennials or part of Generation Z, according to the Pew Research Center. Gen Z alone is now 10% of the eligible voter population, up from 4% in 2016.

The question in my mind at the time was less about what Mr. Biden could do to resonate with me, and more about how he and other candidates are resonating with voters under 40 years of age. In the brief time I had with Senator Booker, I asked him how he was planning to connect with young voters who were not tuning in to Rachel Maddow on MSNBC or the Sunday morning shows on the broadcast and cable news channels. He looked perplexed, and asked his staff to give me his business card to follow up. I did, and never heard back. 

In the 2016 U.S. election, 51% of citizens aged 18-24 registered to vote, though only 39% turned up to the polls, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The discrepancy was pronounced in Michigan and Texas, two of the eight battleground states in 2020. The 18-29 age voter block has never had more than 50% of eligible voters cast a ballot in a presidential election since the early 1980s.

Will this change in 2020 as U.S. college students continue to see their studies disrupted by COVID-19, and recent graduates find companies postponing or rescinding employment offers? How much of their drive to register to vote depends on how they receive their news? 

In the last 15 years as YouTube has grown to critical mass in the U.S. and around the world with over 1 billion daily users, I have seen a number of industries impacted by creators on the platform. Musicians once reliant on MTV for cultural and social currency do that today through digital platforms. Twitch and YouTube creators heavily impact the revenue of games like Fortnite and Free Fire with their let’s play videos. Fitness, beauty, and the advertising industry all lean into creators who bootstrapped their way to growing massive communities and fervent fan bases. The kind of fans that would vote if there was an option. 

There is a playbook to organically grow reach and community on a platform like YouTube. One has to invest time and money, but far less than the $365 million Mr. Biden and President Trump plan to spend on television advertising between September 1 and Election Day (or the $22 million in YouTube ads the Democratic National Committee plans to spend in the same period). Video of a Presidential candidate has been an important factor since the 1960 race, and there are many consultants to advise candidates on the sound bites important for live television and cable news. How big are the two candidate’s YouTube teams focused on organic reach and community building? It seems very small, or very ineffective. 

In May 2020, Mr. Biden drove most of his online video consumption on Twitter (64% of total), while President Trump saw the most consumption on Facebook (39% of total), based on data I analyzed from each of the platforms. May was the month in which Twitter fact-checked the President and in June, Facebook started banning certain Trump campaign ads for violating its policy against organized hate. 

In June 2020, President Trump posted 37% less videos to Twitter, though he saw his views jump 58% MoM. His team flooded the zone with 205 YouTube videos (up 197% MoM). Very few seemed to resonate with viewers. Mr. Biden’s June total on YouTube is skewed by a single video boosted by paid advertising. 

In July 2020, President Trump’s team tried the volume game again on YouTube with 555 uploads (up 171% MoM). Total views were flat MoM, and half of the total was generated from videos uploaded prior to July 1. Mr. Biden’s campaign is finding more success with short-form videos on Twitter and Instagram, with an average of 955k and 504k views per upload, respectively. His YouTube average view count is up 250% since May, though only at 232k per video. 

How is it that a major candidate for the U.S. Presidency can only average 17,167 new subscribers to his YouTube channel per month in the last three months? It is the biggest video platform, and roughly 70-80% of all U.S. Internet users under 35 are consuming content on the platform each quarter. Is this in any way an indicator of how these voters, nearly 40% of the total electorate, will show up on November 3?

It is estimated that 75% of Mr. Biden’s audience on YouTube is male, and 35% are 18-34 years of age. Similar gender and age skew for President Trump. More than half of young voters in 2016 were women. Should both camps figure out how creators before them on YouTube have bridged the gender divide before it is too late? 

As any prominent IP owner knows about YouTube, the views on the official channel are one thing. User uploaded content is another thing. 

In July 2020, if the objective was to drive clicks and views to your channel, you would see the same result with an average of 28,000 YouTube views per upload on content featuring Mr. Biden or President Trump. The difference in the YouTube view count is the nearly three fold gap in people uploading content about President Trump. 

In 2016, President Trump benefited from two times more screen time on nightly news broadcasts than his rival Hillary Clinton. That was dictated by news editors. Now it is the user community driving the content and watch time. 


Cable News and Online News

The cable news landscape on YouTube is similar to TV ratings, in the fact that Fox News leads the group in total views in July 2020.

Outside of the repurposing of television news for YouTube, there are several creators who have used the platform to build an audience and business. In July 2020, Brian Tyler Cohen’s daily political news digests and interviews with politicians like Senator Kamala Harris, is representative of a channel on YouTube that resonates quite well with 18-34 year old viewers. 

Ben Shapiro and Dan Bongino had 101 videos uploaded in July (41% of their total) sponsored by brands such as ExpressVPN, Blinksale and Raycon. Philip DeFranco’s news show had Raycon, Omax Health, Ting and Bright Cellars sponsor videos last month. These performance marketing brands help offset a low volume of pre-roll advertising sold by Google against news content. 

In the last U.S. political election in 2018, it was reported by Axios that campaigns spent $1.1 billion on cable television advertising. 22% more than digital advertising. What’s astounding to me though is the statistic that campaigns spent $2.7 billion on local television advertising. That figure nearly eclipsed the total spent on local television for the 2016 presidential election. 

News and politics creators on platforms like YouTube should be seeing a lot more advertising demand in the next two months, and ideally not from the same performance-based marketers. 


The Lincoln Project

One political action committee making waves in the U.S. is The Lincoln Project, formed in late 2019 by several prominent current and former individuals associated with the Republican Party. One of the founders of the PAC is married to a counselor of President Trump.

In July 2020, The Lincoln Project generated over 225 million views across the main video platforms, with 55% of their views on Twitter. One third of their YouTube audience is 18-34 years old. 

One may think The Lincoln Project is an effective online video booster of President Trump. You would be mistaken. The group prides itself on shining a light on the President’s missteps and supposedly causing his campaign to change its staff and daily talking points. 

Their content is creating admirers and fans. In Q2 2020, the PAC raised $16.8 million, with 45% of the haul coming from donors who gave less than $200. 

Consistent uploads. Unique and authentic voice. Engaged fan base beyond likes and shares. Direct consumer spending / donating. Now they just need to get young, apathetic voters in the battleground states to register to vote before the deadline, and move the group to have a greater than 50% turnout for the first time. 

Will we see more creators in the next month use their influence and persuade their fan base to register to vote? Or is it left to PAC’s like The Lincoln Project to spur people into action?


Lastly …

In the past week, Hong Kong media tycoon and pro-democracy advocate Jimmy Lai was arrested by Hong Kong police on foreign collusion allegations. The owner of Next Media and Apple Daily is in the crosshairs of the government after it imposed new national security laws in June. 

In 2014 when protestors occupied the Central business district in Hong Kong, Mr. Lai’s Apple Daily was a primary news source for the world to understand what was occurring on the ground. Denial of service attacks forced Apple Daily to move its live streams to YouTube, and its news became must-watch content for morning commuters on their mobile phones. 

Around the same time in India, YouTube’s live streaming was being impacted in a different way. A press agency for a politician decided to lodge numerous copyright and community strikes against its opponent so the opponent was no longer able to live stream their speeches and other election content on YouTube. 

These two cases from my time living in Asia are reminders of the importance of press freedoms, and the openness of platforms that have become the primary source of information for the general public. 

Will COVID-19 Forever Reshape Late Night Television?

Issue No. 6

Perennial late night television stalwart Saturday Night Live decamped 30 Rock and had its repertory and featured players try something new on April 11: perform the show from home. The episode garnered 6.6 million television viewers in the 18-49 age demographic, its second-best total of the season after the Eddie Murphy-hosted episode in December.

The episode epitomized to me the progression of creators on YouTube over the past 15 years, and their ability to narrow the quality gap with their broadcast television comedy peers. Devoid of a studio audience yukking it up, the episode delivered on the premonition of host Tom Hanks: several of the sketches were duds. 

Main repertory player Chris Redd tweeted his frustration ahead of the show’s second At Home airing on April 25. 

While 29% of SNL’s total viewed minutes during the 2018-19 season came on digital platforms through short-form videos and full-episode views, its budgets are based on its television broadcast. I found it pretty jarring to see how NBC applied its budget in the first At Home attempt, and noticed a marked improvement in production quality in its second airing.   

Top creators on YouTube have not appeared to skip a beat during COVID-19 restrictions, as their video output has continually increased month-to-month. US-based creators with at least 5 million subscribers increased upload volume in March 13% MoM, and closed April up 5% MoM. 

Brand sponsorship dollars are not following suit. YouTube creators uploading sponsored content decreased 31% MoM in April, and their sponsored video output decreased 35% MoM. The ‘influencer’ set on Instagram is the opposite. Sponsored influencers are up 15% MoM, and sponsored video posts are up 19% MoM.

Late Night Wars … on YouTube

The weekday late night television lineup has had to go through its own makeover. Home-based sets and remote video interviews are in. I am wondering if the $1 million per week production budgets are in as well, or have those been curtailed? 

The Late Show with Stephen Colbert holds the lead in television viewers over his 11:30 p.m. rivals The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel Live. 6.5 million Americans watch these shows on television, and 8 percent of 18-49 year-olds with a television on at that hour choose to tune into their shows. 

Whereas SNL still draws the majority of its viewer engagement on its broadcast airing, the late night shows, and especially those at the 12:30 a.m. time slot, seem to me to be produced for YouTube viewing and monetization. I have never seen Seth Meyers or James Corden in their original format, but regularly find Meyers’ A Closer Look and Corden’s Carpool Karaoke in my YouTube feed. 

Will television network execs rethink their spending on late night television post this COVID-19 environment? A weekly format on HBO like Last Week Tonight with John Oliver or Real Time with Bill Maher would command a $1 million production budget per episode -- before fees for the host. 

John Krasinski has masterfully shown what is possible with a budget akin to a YouTube show, and appears to have had far more social impact in the past two months than all of the late night shows combined. Some Good News has quickly surpassed 2 million subscribers and 50 million channel views. More impressive to me is the $5 million in corporate sponsorship it has already generated, the nature of the guests Krasinski has booked for the show, and the way I find it permeating the community around me. One of our portfolio companies provided the technology for the Some Good News prom live stream with Billie Eilish and other musicians. I heard Krasinski handled the production himself, and politely declined any production support. He embodies the ethos of YouTubers, and has come to the scene at just the right time. 

YouTube creator turned late night television host Lilly Singh is averaging 700,000 viewers for her 1:30 a.m. broadcast, and capturing 2% of the 18-49 year olds still up and watching broadcast television at that hour. Her share of the audience demographic is not bad in comparison to Fallon’s, though her show’s performance on YouTube lags far behind her late night peers. 

If we looked at each of the late night hosts as creators on YouTube, here is how they would rank in April based on total views to their show’s channel:

Alumni from Jon Stewart’s Daily Show currently occupy five shows, and together they account for 27 percent of the total views in April. Stewart was always fond of saying he is a comedian and not a journalist, though many in the 18-49 age demographic would routinely say they received their news from his show. 

When I reviewed the late night shows and filtered for recency, the news-heavy shows performed better than their musical and sketch comedy peers. The Daily Show with Trevor Noah becomes the top ranked show on YouTube, followed by Stephen Colbert’s Late Show with content laced with political news commentary.

Another item that stuck out to me with this filter is how much Fallon, Kimmel and Corden benefit from a video archive on YouTube. 70-90 percent of their total views in a month come from content uploaded in a prior month. 

Krasinski’s Some Good News would rank #6 based on his 10 uploads in April generating 31.1 million views in the month. Long-time YouTube creators Rhett & Link’s Good Mythical Morning show would rank #8 based on their 13 uploads in April generating over 18 million views. 

If one was to follow in Krasinski’s footsteps and eschew the broadcast television path, how should they design their program to maximize viewership and commercial returns? Is YouTube still the second window to late night television, or is the late night broadcast merely the prop for a successful YouTube channel? 

HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver hit a season high the week of March 23, with 973,000 viewers at its 11 p.m. Sunday night airing. I generally find the show’s producers upload its main segment to YouTube before HBO can post the full episode to its own streaming service. The segments routinely fetch 4 to 6 million views in the first 24 hours on YouTube. While it is fun to see Oliver rail against his corporate overlords at AT&T from time to time, he has to be thankful his budgets allow him to staff a team and produce the in-depth material that makes his program an award winning one. 

Lastly ...

  • As much as Netflix’s distribution of The Office has to have helped John Krasinski maintain market awareness ahead of his Some Good News launch in March, NBC’s decision to upload over 1,000 clips and highlight reels to two YouTube channels has to help as well. This video on ‘How to Prevent the Spread of Germs’, pulled from an episode that originally aired nearly 10 years ago, is quite apropos for these times. 

  • US-based mobile carrier T-Mobile announced a new $15/month 2GB data plan ahead of its merger with Sprint, to position its lowest-priced option to consumers as a response to COVID-19 impact on incomes and the need to stay connected with family. The plan has access to YouTube Premium, and is stated to allow Internet browsing for 24 hours or consumption of 4 hours of standard definition video.

    I compared this to Jio Platforms, India’s large mobile carrier that is responsible for a lot of the growth of online video in the country and the country’s rise to becoming YouTube’s #1 market for daily active users. Jio was in the news in April for receiving a $5.7 billion minority investment from Facebook, and recently added $750 million more from US-based private equity firm Silver Lake Partners. Jio has a plan for $3.27/month, which is roughly the price that is the same percentage of the median income in the country as T-Mobile’s plan is in the US. The difference though is T-Mobile offers consumers 2GB per month, while Jio offers consumers 2GB per day.

    “Here we are in the midst of COVID-19 and what does Facebook do? It pivots in India and deploys $5.7 billion to make an investment," said Sir Martin Sorrell, former CEO of WPP and current executive chairman of S4 Capital. "You see the flexibility of the tech sector—whilst everyone else is looking at their boots, they are looking at the sky."

How Is Live Video Driving Creator Productivity Post COVID-19?

Issue No. 5

The last time I recall commerce and travel being impacted as much as it is now because of a virus epidemic, it was 2003 when SARS was sweeping across Asia. I was living in Singapore, and managing Yahoo!’s video streaming business. SARS led to a surge in business activity for my business unit. The shift was front and center. Companies moved away from hosting physical conferences and events, and moved towards using Yahoo! Broadcast’s live streaming service. Cisco Systems asked my team to produce a live stream featuring its CEO John Chambers in place of its region-wide developer conference. Travel was restricted, but business continued.

This past month, COVID-19 has quickly moved from an epidemic impacting my family and friends living in Asia, to a global pandemic affecting my family and friends living in America. In the past week, the principal of my kids’ school and the pastor of the local church have both announced they tested positive for coronavirus. While the public health and economic crisis today exceeds the reach of SARS, the ripple effect of coronavirus on video streaming and the Creator economy is reminiscent of what I experienced in 2003. 

When I spoke to Dave Lazar, the CEO of STAGE TEN (one of my company’s early investments) today, I learned demand for his company’s live video streaming offering has driven revenue up 500% in the past two weeks. In the past week, over one thousand churches turned to Dave’s company to deliver live streaming sermons to their congregation. Prominent education creators and providers are turning to homeschooling support using STAGE TEN tools. Meanwhile, Hollywood talent and productions forced to pause on-set shoots are figuring out how to stay active in the coming months with live content and remote workarounds.

In seeking to understand what ecosystem changes have occurred over the past month, I conducted some research and here is what I found so far:

  • Live streaming content is peaking. On YouTube, it happened this month on Sunday, March 22 with 125,000 active accounts and 175,000 live streams in the day. Facebook peaked on Wednesday, March 25 with 70,200 active accounts and 130,000 live streams. (as I write this, I don’t have insight on Sunday, March 29 onwards).

  • The total number of live streams on YouTube in March is up 93% year-over-year (YoY), and 7% month-over-month (MoM). Facebook is up 8% in both time periods. YouTube’s growth appears to be driven by creators and companies located outside of the USA. US-based YouTube live streams are up 7% YoY and 13% MoM.

  • 60% of YouTube live streams in March 2020 have at least 100 views, whereas it is 89% on Facebook. Could this difference have to do with notifications and discovery on each platform?

  • Most popular live streams on YouTube in March 2020 are from India-based television news channels. Aaj Tak, NDTV and ABP top the list. India is YouTube’s #1 market globally for DAU, so the presence of these broadcasters at the top of the list makes sense.

  • Given the number of home-bound young children due to school closures and extra screen time, several popular kids content producers have launched 24/7 live streams on YouTube this month. WB Kids is offering a highlight reel of Tom and Jerry. PAW Patrol and Peppa Pig are in on the action as well. These channels have over 50 million views of their live streams to date.

The change in viewing activity on YouTube is pronounced in categories I would expect to experience jumps in view counts:

  • News & Politics view counts hit a two-year peak on YouTube. It is up 80% from March 9 to March 22.

  • Personality & Vlog content is also hitting a two-year peak, as views are up 29% in the same March period.

  • Health & Fitness views are up 33%, and Kids & Animation content is up 30%. Both genres are very popular in my household with my wife and kids.

  • Gaming, music, and general entertainment content appear to be performing at the same level as before coronavirus. Travel content, as expected, is trending down. 

I noticed sports television networks are airing old broadcasts, and late night television has moved from a sound stage to the host’s own home. It will be interesting to see the mid- to long-term impact on scripted television and animated content as productions have paused. What is the impact on the US Fall television pilot season? What is going to air in the place of these programs if they are not ready for broadcast? Will this further push consumer attention towards digital platforms?

TikTok creators are arguably well positioned to flourish in this coronavirus environment. They continue to shoot content on their mobile phone, in the confines of their home. YouTube creators, on the other hand, have transitioned over the years from solo shoots in their bedroom, to larger productions with a crew and on-location shoots. The latter is harder to execute in this current environment.

Overall uploads on YouTube are down 1% MoM globally, and down 3% in the US. From a YoY perspective, uploads in March are up 16% globally and down 16% in the US. The contribution of uploads from creators, and not media companies, does not appear to be less impacted. Output from this group is down 10% YoY, and down 1% in the past month. 

The next couple of months will reveal how the market adjusts to a post-COVID-19 world. I have found YouTube’s recommendations help me discover videos uploaded months to years ago. My 10-year old son and I spent over an hour this weekend watching a highlight reel of Stephen Curry’s March Madness run when he played for Davidson, then followed by another highlight reel of the playoff run that led to Curry’s first NBA championship. I found myself getting excited after several scores as if I was watching the game for the first time. How well does the library value of creator-produced content hold up by comparison to the television archives on YouTube?

Lastly …

  • Q1 2020 earnings reports will be a good window into how COVID-19 has impacted the tech titans, for better or for worse. Apple posted $27 billion in revenue in Q4 2019 from Asia Pacific, and the region accounted for 30% of its global total. The region has become important to both Google and Facebook, accounting for 16% and 17% of their global revenue, respectively. Tencent and Alibaba have large businesses in online gaming and e-commerce, both of which were reported to have seen increased demand throughout Q1 as people stayed home. Tencent generated $16 billion last year in online gaming revenue, and Alibaba made nearly $27 billion from advertising-centered fees on its Taobao e-commerce platform.

  • I have enjoyed digging into NPR’s Tiny Desk concerts archives on YouTube, and look forward to when they can resume bringing artists into their office studio.

Stay safe everyone. 

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