Is YouTube really a threat to conventional TV?

From my piece in yesterday’s Observer.

The big question is whether YouTube poses a strategic threat to the traditional television industry. Up to now, most observers have been sceptical about that. They see conventional TV and YouTube as inhabitants of parallel universes. TV is all about marshalling scarce and expensive resources, exerting tight editorial control and charging for content. YouTube is all about the absence of editorial control, not charging for content, harnessing the abundance of free, user-generated (and sometimes copyrighted) material and extracting value from it by attaching personalised advertising to video clips.

The parallel-universes theory appears to be supported by comparisons of how people use YouTube and conventional TV. While a lot of people visit YouTube every day, they stay, on average, for only 15 minutes. Conventional television viewing, on the other hand, at between four and five hours a day in the US, seems to be holding up quite well. On the basis of these numbers, can TV executives continue to sleep easily?

Maybe. But Google, which owns YouTube, has plans to increase the “stickiness” of YouTube by getting into the content-creation business…