HOW YOUTUBE CONTINUES TO CHANGE ‘THE GAME’

This is a repost from Jordanchaffiotte.com 2016.

It’s old news that YouTube has redefined consumption of media and the landscape of content production. They’ve been doing it for over a decade, but YouTube seems to refuse to get stagnant and wait for competitors to sneak in. As the industry leader, the pressure is on to continue to change the game. In the past year, they’ve made significant strides and for one group on YouTubers in particular: Gamers.

YouTube opened up a brand new type of video content. Let’s Plays, or videos of the creator playing through a video game, made a splash in the last few years, with creators like Pewdiepie gaining mainstream attention. More serious Let’s Players, like TheRadBrad also gained celebrity within the platform, with millions of subscribers. YouTube took notice of this popularity and also the competition that live-streaming platform, Twitch, provided. So in 2012, they launched live streaming.

That was a fairly successful venture, with dedicated fans enjoying the unedited versions of their favorite creators, but it hasn’t garnered major attention until recently. Live streaming has very quietly taken over, between Facebook Live, Periscope, and YouTube providing a way to connect and interact with an audience in real time. YouTube has recently woven that into the very core of their product with a major new addition to their interface.

It’s called Primetime on YouTube. Oh Primetime, remember that? If you’re like me, it’s a distant memory. With television, it refers to that 7:00-10:00-ish block on weekdays when people are most likely to be consuming that media. For YouTube, it’s a block of time set around when creators, specifically gaming creators, are streaming. This section of the site is designed to give you an advanced schedule and get more interaction on their videos as they go online, starting at 6 EST.

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The YouTube PrimeTime interface, complete with night mode

For now, it’s mostly centered around gaming channels, like MatPat’s GT Live, Achievement Hunter, and Markiplier. This is a perfect fit, gamers were the ones who pioneered live streaming through Twitch, and can realistically fill up a large block of time with content. Rather than have other types of creator struggle to find something to talk about for an hour straight, YouTube relied on Gamers who are bound to take a long time to get through a portion of the game. Recently MatPat spent what felt like hours (though was probably closer to 30 minutes) trying to beat the Cupcake Minigame in Five Nights at Freddy’s, Sister Location. “Who bothers to watch that?” you might ask. Me. I do. It was worth it. 

Which brings us to the reason this is such a big step for YouTube. Primetime is cutting into one of the few ways I still consume content on television. Shows I really care about I tend to catch throughout the week when I can find time to enjoy them, and other than that, television is a passive activity, not an active one. I don’t just mean with our brains, though our parents have been arguing that for a long time, I mean with our engagement. Multitasking is one of those major millennial traits and often thought of as a negative thing. But the fact is, we don’t want to interact with one thing and one thing only. Flip on the TV to something that you I like well enough, for me, it’s usually an episode of How I Met Your Mother that I’ve seen a hundred times, and let it be there while you do something else is a key part of how I’m consuming media these days. With YouTube Primetime and an increased emphasis on live streaming, now I can easily do that online.

Before, the fact that anything remotely passive on YouTube would only go on for a few minutes before I had to find something else was a bit exhausting. Now, however, all of these live streams are saved as long videos and I can turn them on at any time, reruns if you will. I’m able to consume long live streams the way I consume HGTV, which means I don’t really need HGTV anymore. YouTube has slowly been encroaching on cable’s territory for a long time and PrimeTime might just be a big push in the takeover. It’s also a huge diversion as short viral videos are largely considered to be the lifeblood of YouTube. What’s important here is the diversification of YouTube’s content, let’s be real, those cat videos aren’t going anywhere.

What’s next for the YouTube PrimeTime experiment? If YouTube finds that its users are consuming this content at the rates that make it appealing to sponsors, it could easily be expanded to other types of creators. Livestreaming for hours in a block might not be as intuitive to other creators as it is for gamers who are spending all that time playing the game anyway.But it is a good medium for roundtable discussions and news-style shows all a TMZ Live. YouTube keeps proving that it’s never done changing the game.