The democratization of video

The playing field has leveled in terms of video production. It all began when YouTube went live on February 14, 2005. It would be two months before the site’s founder, Jawed Karim, would upload the first video to the platform. Little did he realize that they were changing an industry. They never realized that YouTube would democratize video.

In those days, video was primarily produced by big companies. The major networks, or legacy media, produced the programming. They would send that video out over the broadcast airwaves or cable networks. People could record programming for later watching, but audiences were still largely dependent on when the programs were on. Smaller producers could burn their own DVDs, but large-scale viewership just wasn’t possible for most people. You could argue that legacy media had a tight grip on video production.

Then came the phenomenon called YouTube. You saw average people shooting their videos and uploading them to be watched by thousands, and later millions of people. Anyone and everyone had the potential to create a video and distribute it worldwide. Other streaming video platforms would follow like Twitch and TikTok. Social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook would add video uploading. Suddenly video has become democratized. Anyone can produce a video and share it with the world.

Today, it’s estimated that YouTube has over 2.7 billion users per month. This means that about 1/3 of the planet is on YouTube in a given month. It’s more likely for people in cubicles and on campuses to be discussing their latest video find than what was on TV last night. Video is much more of a niche market than ever before. Are you into anime or fishing? There’s a place for you. Do you want to watch travel vlogs from San Diego or find out what’s on sale at Costco? There are content creators who are making a living with those topics.

Which brings up the subject of money. It didn’t take long for advertisers to figure out that when people are watching, they can drop in ads just like on broadcast TV. It was August 2007 when YouTube dropped in advertising. That was less than a year after Google bought YouTube for $1.65 billion. That’s a drop in the bucket considering that, in 2023, YouTube generated $31.5 billion in revenue. That financial shift has caused legacy media outlets to scramble.

We’ve now come full circle. Legacy media companies have their own YouTube channels. Their content is right alongside the small content creators. YouTube now has a monthly subscription service like the cable companies. The competition for views and ad revenue is fierce. Everyone is trying to figure out what will grab audiences. Will it be the highly produced network show or the teenager with his iPhone? Of course, the legacy media might disagree, but the winner is the audience. They’re the ones who get to decide what they want to see and when they want to watch. Democratization can be a good thing.

Jeff Chaves
Jeff Chaves
Jeff Chaves is the chief creative officer of Grace Pictures Inc. and is a full-time minister with over 12 years of experience in television broadcasting.

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