Google's roll out of YouTube TV may be about to accelerate.
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki grabbed headlines this week at the annual VidCon gathering in Anaheim, Calif. when she announced new features for the mobile version of the world's largest video platform. Alphabet's (GOOGL) - Get Report Google has always been good at bells and whistles, and these new features are likely to further draw eyeballs to YouTube's mobile platform.
YouTube, she said, will now automatically reformat videos to fit a user's smartphone or tablet.
More importantly, YouTube wants to make it easier for users to live-stream their own video. To do that, Wojcicki laid out plans to build cameras with LG, Lenovo and other manufacturers that make it possible for users to create 180-degree videos in 3-D. YouTube will allow users with at least 100 subscribers to live-stream to the platform.
Disney (DIS) - Get Report should probably take note -- live-streaming video on YouTube might soon be as good or even better than what audiences see on ESPN. It will certainly offer new angles and in-stadium excitement that the networks really don't do all that well. Live-streaming on YouTube has quadrupled over the past year, Wojcicki said.
But the really eye-popping piece of data that Wojcicki spelled-out at VidCon was a simple round number: YouTube is now being used by a stunning 1.5 billion users each month.
For YouTube TV, Google's $35-per-month digital television platform, the worldwide popularity of their video platform remains the biggest reason it could soon lap its online TV rivals DirecTV Now, Sling TV and Hulu. While each are digital variations on the traditional cable-TV bundle, none of them can springboard off a user base as large as YouTube's.
So far, the rollout of YouTube TV has been slow since it launched in April in five markets -- New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and the San Francisco Bay Area. This week, YouTube said its service will add 10 new markets, including Dallas, Houston, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Miami.
To distinguish its digital pay-TV service, Google has kept YouTube TV small. Its focus is on the largest common denominator, meaning the broadcast networks. YouTube TV carries the fewest cable-TV channels not owned by the Big Four of CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox. One exception is AMC Network's (AMCX) - Get Report flagship network, home of the most popular show on television, The Walking Dead.
But YouTube TV remains singularly top heavy. It doesn't even carry networks owned by Time Warner (TWX) , which is on track to be acquired by AT&T (T) - Get Report by year's end. YouTube TV also offers nearly unlimited storage and the ability to share the account between six users, especially attractive features for kids still tied to their parents' paychecks.
One weakness of YouTube TV has been the absence of some regional sports networks which are an integral part of Hulu's live TV service and Sony's (SNE) - Get Report PlayStation Vue. It appears from Google's announcement at VidCon this week, that those regional sports networks might soon be part of the service.
Unique among the pay-TV platforms, YouTube TV appears focused on offering its 1.5 billion YouTube users a convenient means to watch the most popular U.S. networks at a reasonably compelling price point on a most-familiar platform. That young people are the core of YouTube's audience appears to be driving early adoption of YouTube TV. Wojicicki said as much, blogging that "we see more Millennials using YouTube TV than any other generational group."
In other words, some of its more than 1.5 billion users of You Tube.