Lately Google’s (GOOG, GOOGL) stock took a bit of a hit with an odd controversy. It started in Britain, where brands took notice that their ads were being served against ISIS videos and other questionable content. Complaining that Google did a bad job of censoring and restricting content on their platform, they pulled their ads. Then the controversy spread to the U.S., where AT&T (T) and Verizon (VZ) followed suit.
YouTube has been an interesting sideshow for Google. For one, no one knows how much ad revenue the company gets from its streaming video service, but pretty much everyone agrees it’s a big growth driver. In some ways YouTube is a natural fit for Google—both are used for search queries by people looking something up. But YouTube is also a content platform that actually houses content creators’ work. This isn’t the case with Google search itself. You search, you get links to a page, then you click and go to the webpage.
This is why brands don’t care about their ads being against search results pointing to objectionable content on Google. If it’s there it’s not actually on Google and it’s more a result of the webmaster’s SEO skills than a fault of Google. At the same time, Google spends a lot of time and energy improving search results to make sure questionable content doesn’t float to the top.
Of course, Google does this with YouTube. The company spends a lot of time responding to complaints about content on YouTube and removing questionable videos. This is the irony; many content creators on the platform complain all the time that their videos are removed unjustly, thus making the exact opposite complaint (too many videos are removed) from the brands’ complaint (not enough videos are removed).
What a mess. Of course, YouTube could avoid this altogether if it became a platform that streamed other people’s content from their own sites instead of a content house itself. That, in part, is what YouTube TV is all about.
Just like your cable provider isn’t seen as responsible for the cable channels it provides, YouTube TV won’t be responsible for the channels it will broadcast. What’s more, the channels available will be much “safer”: Fox (FOX, FOXA), ESPN (DIS), and even Comcast Sportsnet (CMCSA). That latter inclusion is interesting. YouTube TV is arguably a replacement for cable—an even better one than Netflix (NFLX) if you’re a sports fan or want live viewing. So why would CMCSA, America’s biggest cable provider, be helping YouTube?
I don’t have an answer, but that is a springboard for an analyst who wants to understand what exactly is going on. The landscape is changing quickly, and both Google and Comcast are adapting to fit. How will this impact revenue streams and sales growth in the future? How will this influence operating margins? How does this impact competition with Netflix, Amazon (AMZN), and other video streamers like Facebook (FB), Twitter (TWTR), and so on?
What exactly is going on? Is it a YouTube Future?