YouTube, that incandescent tower of video Babel; monument to the sloughed-off detritus of our exponentially-exploding digital culture; a Technicolor cataract of skateboarding dogs, lip-synching college students, political punditry, and porn; has reached the zenith of its meteoric rise; and Icarus-like, wings melting; is spiraling back to earth. Despite massive growth, ubiquitous global brand awareness, presidential endorsement, and the world’s greatest repository of illegally-pirated video content, Google’s massive video folly is on life-support, and the prognosis is grave.
The problem lies with the bean-counters. According to a report by Credit Suisse, YouTube is on track to lose roughly $470 million in 2009. No matter Google’s $116 billion market cap: a half-billion dollar loss on a single property, even one as large as YouTube, is a bitter pill to swallow. Even Eric Schmidt, talking to the New York Times about the YouTube acquisition, was quick to say that, going forward, Google would “be more careful with potential large expense streams, which are of uncertain return.”
Credit Suisse estimates YouTube will manage to rake in about $240 million in ad revenue in 2009, against operating costs of roughly $711 million, leading to a shortfall of just over $470 million. This half-billion dollar loss comes after more than a year of feverish experimentation in various forms of advertising, cross-product embedding, licensing and partnership deals. YouTube is adamant that ultimately they’ll find an advertising solution that will enable the ungainly behemoth to reach profitability. Looking at the math, it doesn’t seem likely.
It's no wonder why the twitter guys have no interest in selling out to anyone. Streaming around 140 characters at a time has a very different operating cost overhead than streaming around videos of cats doing stupid things. Given the necessity to share ad revenue with content owners, there isn't much room for a profit even with extremely high-end CPM rates. Youtube economics. FAIL.