Letter from the YouTube CEO: 4 Big bets for 2024
Feb 06, 2024 – minute read
Since the very first upload, YouTube has opened up a new way to tell stories. Suddenly anyone with a story could find an audience. And they did just that. People filmed in their kitchens, their bedrooms, and even their backyards. Along the way, they built communities that stretched across the globe.
YouTube took this creativity one step further by making a big bet: we decided to share revenue with creators. Since then, the growth of the creator economy has been incredible. More people created content on YouTube last year than ever before. And we’ve hit a new milestone. Today more than 3 million channels are in the YouTube Partner Program (YPP), which gives creators ways to earn money on YouTube. YPP has paid out more than any other creator monetization platform, and we paid over $70 billion to creators, artists, and media companies over the last three years.
Now generative AI is driving another evolution that raises critical questions about how we express creativity. As we move forward, we’ll continue to embrace partnership. We’ll develop entirely new ways of empowering creative expression, managing rights, and driving revenue for our partners.
We’re at a key moment in history and I’m excited about what lies ahead. Today I’m sharing how we’re thinking about these changes, my vision for 2024, and four big bets we’re making across YouTube.
I’ve spent my career at the intersection of tech and creativity, and I recognize both the potential and the questions we face with generative AI. The good news is that YouTube has spent years tackling complex content challenges from monetization to rights management to protecting our community.
We’re approaching advances in AI with the same mission that launched YouTube years ago. We want to help everyone create. AI should empower human creativity, not replace it. And everyone should have access to AI tools that will push the boundaries of creative expression.
We recently announced new AI experiments that demonstrate this drive to innovate. Dream Screen is scaling creativity by giving anyone the ability to make AI-generated backgrounds for YouTube Shorts. It lets you create anything you can imagine by just typing in an idea, like a popcorn volcano or a disco forest. And through our Music AI Incubator, we’re hearing feedback from artists about the ways AI can supercharge their creative process. Last year, we shared Dream Track, one of the first experiments as we explore the possibilities of AI in music in collaboration with partners across the industry. See how it’s going so far.
We’re leveling the playing field and developing AI tools that empower everyone. Our commitment to democratizing access to AI builds on the ways we’re enabling everyone to share fun videos right from their phones with Shorts. The next generation of storytellers has the power to create in the palm of their hands. Shorts is an easy way for anyone to get started, and AI innovation will make it possible for even more people to create. I love seeing how people use Shorts to participate in cultural moments. Shorts is averaging over 70 billion daily views, and the number of channels uploading Shorts has grown 50% year over year.
This year, we’ll continue to ensure AI is in service of creativity through our work with creative industries, in the rollout of AI-powered features, and as we unlock opportunities while building out appropriate protections.
Shorts is averaging over 70 billion daily views, and the number of channels uploading Shorts has grown 50% year over year.
Over the years, creators have built a name for themselves. They’re entertaining people around the world, making us laugh, and bringing us together. They’re also doing something even bigger. They’re redefining the future of the entertainment industry with top-notch storytelling that can’t be dismissed as simply “user-generated content.”
It’s not just the entertainment industry that’s taking note. World leaders are also tapping into the wide reach of creators. Last fall at the APEC Economic Leaders’ Week in San Francisco, government officials like the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs and the U.S. Secretary of Commerce sat down with creators, including Toby Hendy, Liah Yoo, and Humphrey Yang, to connect with their audiences. I had the opportunity to watch some of these conversations in person – it’s great to see leaders understand the value of creators.
Creators are truly entrepreneurs, and we’re helping them diversify the ways they make money on YouTube. We’re investing in ways creators earn money while helping viewers shop for products. And viewers are directly supporting their favorite creators through fan funding features like channel memberships. The number of creators using memberships increased more than 50% last year, and creators are seeing the impact of fan funding. Like Narae is Consulting, who leaned into memberships to draw more viewers to her career development content. And Emily D. Baker, whose membership earnings grew more than 50% last year. The majority of Emily’s YouTube revenue now comes from memberships.
We’re also working behind the scenes to support creators through programs like the Creator Collective, which brings creators together to share experiences, build community, and collaborate. We launched a pilot of this program last year in eight countries and we’ve heard helpful feedback from creators.
This year, we’ll help policymakers and partners across the industry see the economic and entertainment value that creators bring to the table. Being a creator is a full time job with an international audience, but most governments don’t account for creators in their labor data. We believe creators should be recognized for their work and creators at the top of their game should be acknowledged in key industry forums.
When I started at YouTube, people thought about content from major studios and content from creators as entirely different, but today that stark divide is gone. Viewers want everything in one place, from a live sports game to the BBC to Khan Academy and NikkieTutorials. And they’re watching YouTube the way we used to sit down together for traditional TV shows – on the biggest screen in the home with friends and family. Their numbers are impressive. Viewers globally now watch more than 1 billion hours on average of YouTube content on their TVs every day. According to Nielsen's report on streaming in the U.S., YouTube was the leader in streaming watchtime for the past 11 months.
Creators are thinking about how to optimize their content for the living room, and it’s easy to see why – it’s where their audience is watching! In the last three years, the number of top creators that received the majority of their watchtime on the big screen increased more than 400%.1 Like creators Ms Rachel and SypherPK, whose living room watchtime doubled in the second half of last year. And it might not be what you’d expect, but people like watching Shorts on their TVs!
We’re bringing everything viewers love about YouTube to the living room experience. And that includes sports. We just wrapped our first season of NFL Sunday Ticket, and it really shows the future of YouTube. We’re bringing all of the content people want to see, like commentary from creators such as Deestroying and the Kelce brothers’ New Heights podcast.
We’re also seeing growing consumer interest in our subscription services. We’re excited to announce that we have more than 8 million subscribers to YouTube TV. And we passed 100 million Music and Premium subscribers, including trials. Music subscriptions help us deliver on our goal to be the best place for artists to connect with fans, from insider access to Coachella to Shorts challenges with NewJeans, Dua Lipa, Tate McRae, and more.
This year, we’ll continue to deliver a best in class experience for subscriptions and YouTube in the living room.
As we work across all of these priorities, our number one commitment is to responsibly protect the YouTube community. Our business as a streaming service relies not just on engagement, but on giving viewers and advertisers confidence that they can count on us to deliver high quality content. Protecting the creator economy is foundational to everything we do, and it’s good for business.
Protecting the creator economy is foundational to everything we do, and it’s good for business.
It’s important that we create a healthy online experience for kids. As I watch my own kids use technology at home, I’m reminded how many families come to YouTube every day to help their kids with everything from homework to tutorials for new hairstyles. Our youth products reach more than 100 million active viewers every month, and we’re supporting the growth of kids and teens thoughtfully and in coordination with parenting and mental health experts.
Another way we uphold our responsibility is connecting people with high quality information. This is more important than ever as elections take place across the globe - more than 50 countries will hold elections this year. We’re ensuring that when people look for election news on YouTube, authoritative sources are prominent in their searches and recommendations. We spent years investing in a playbook to responsibly manage content on YouTube including longstanding, rigorously enforced policies against hate speech, incitement to violence, election interference, and more. We quickly evolve and adapt when new challenges emerge, and we’ll do so again as generative AI makes more sophisticated deepfakes possible and raises new questions. Not only do all of our existing policies apply to synthetically generated content, we’ll also add new layers of transparency and protections. For example, in the coming months, we’ll introduce labels that inform viewers when the realistic content they’re seeing is synthetic.
We’re focused on our responsibility efforts in every aspect of our work, and we’ll continue to make investments in the teams and technologies that protect the YouTube community.
These are four big bets we’re making in 2024, but our work doesn’t end there. We’re creating the best possible experiences on YouTube, whether you’re learning something new, checking out a podcast, or watching your favorite gaming creator’s livestream. Most of the innovations we work on every day don’t make headlines, but they deliver on our mission to help people connect through stories.
Of course, none of this would be possible without our creators, viewers, advertisers, and partners. Thanks to this amazing community for everything you do to help people around the world come together on YouTube every day. I look forward to seeing what you’ll all do next.
1. For creators with more than 100k hours of watchtime a month.