- June 29, 2020

Special Feature: YouTube’s Evolution in the OTT Streaming Landscape

Alison Robart
Alison Robart
Senior Director, Strategic Partnerships
Kim Gardner
Kim Gardner
Product Marketing Manager, Google

Over recent years, over-the-top (OTT) streaming and streaming on connected TV devices (CTV) has exploded, bringing changes to how advertisers think about their media investments.

As audiences become less tied to a traditional cable or satellite subscription, the rise of streaming on CTV devices has created a new opportunity for advertisers to reach viewers in a more targeted way.

In this special blog post, Comscore has partnered with YouTube to take a deeper dive into how YouTube fits into this evolving landscape and to highlight the trends that they are seeing across their platform.

The “Big 5” streaming services account for more than 80% of OTT streaming hours

In Comscore’s 2020 State of OTT webinar, we uncovered recent, rapid changes in the industry due to the growth of OTT services, content and devices, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on consumer behavior.

We found that the “Big 5” streaming services (Amazon Video, Disney+, Hulu, Netflix, and YouTube) have amassed a massive reach into OTT households and collectively represent more than 80% of all OTT streaming hours. The growth for YouTube has been similarly high. YouTube OTT household reach is up 13% for 2020 (January 2020 vs. April 2020) and is up 34% over the past year (March 2019 vs. March 2020).

Reach is up for the Big 5 Streaming Services in 2020

Since January 2020, while all streaming services have increased their reach, most of this growth came from services that reached ad-supported households. Overall, ad-supported OTT services are extending their reach at a faster pace than non-ad supported services (+9% growth in reach vs. +5%, respectively, between January 2020 and April 2020). This is good news for advertisers, as it means their content is getting in front of more viewers.

CTV is an evolving category for advertisers and saw substantial growth in 2020

While traditional devices such as desktops/laptops, phones and tablets have the largest reach across U.S. wi-fi households, CTV devices are penetrating the market at a rapid rate year-over-year. As of March 2020, CTV devices reached over 70% of US wi-fi households. As it relates to YouTube, looking at YouTube internal data, this translates to over 100 million people watching YouTube and YouTube TV on their TV screens each month2.

Traditional Digital Services Have the Greatest Reach

In addition to the growing reach of CTV devices, the amount of time spent watching content has increased as well. Overall, YouTube experienced substantial growth in watch time on CTV devices, up +22% for total hours streamed (March 2019 vs. March 2020). YouTube also saw increases across all types of viewers when looking at households that watch YouTube and YouTube TV on CTV devices. Heavy OTT viewers increased marginally (+6%) whereas Light (+58%) and Medium (+44%) viewers saw more dramatic increases, allowing advertisers a greater opportunity to reach viewers at all viewing levels more frequently (March 2019 vs March 2020).

Consumption via CTV Devices Has Seen Exceptional Growth

How YouTube offers a unique take on OTT

Not only does YouTube offer Live TV via OTT, it is also the only streaming player to host user generated content (UGC). Since the advent of COVID-19, YouTube's access to user generated content has allowed its content library to pivot quickly. With audiences home more than ever, over 60% of signed-in viewers of YouTube on TV screens watched a video published in the last seven days1.

YouTube has also seen new trends emerge around genres and themes of content being consumed. For example, YouTube has seen that U.S. views are up on titles that contain "Home Workout" (+340%), "Cooking/Recipes" (+45%), and "Meditation Videos" (+45%). Not only are YouTube users consuming more content, but they are also uploading more videos (e.g. "Self-Care" video uploads are up +100%)2.

The switching of interests into such diverse and varied content (including long and short form) is where YouTube can stand out in providing advertising slots. Clearly, YouTube's content is resonating with its audience: according to YouTube survey data, viewers say that YouTube is the number one platform with the most extensive video library (vs TV, OTT and digital)3. YouTube's unique user generated content and existing massive content library provides advertisers the flexibility to target niche and emerging segments.

What YouTube lends to the OTT advertising ecosystem is the platforms’ wide range and breadth of content categories as well as the ability to reach -- and measure -- viewers on CTV. On YouTube, advertisers have great opportunities to reach the right viewers with the right message.



  • Connected TV (CTV): Devices that deliver video by connecting to a TV (e.g. streaming boxes/sticks) or via functionality within the TV itself (i.e. smart TVs). Common CTV device brands include Roku, Amazon Fire, and Apple TV.
  • Heavy streamers: The top 20 percent of OTT households based
    on duration.
  • Light streamers: The bottom 50 percent of OTT households based on duration.
  • Medium streamers: The next 30 percent of OTT households (after heavy streamers) based on duration.
  • Over-the-top (OTT): Any Internet-based content that is streamed on a device that is not a desktop, laptop, or mobile device.
  • OTT streaming households: Homes with OTT devices that stream content on those devices.
  • OTT services/apps: Any app or service that provides content via OTT and bypasses traditional distribution (e.g. Netflix, Hulu, etc.).
  • Streaming box/stick: Refers to devices that connect to a TV for the purpose of streaming video (e.g. Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Chromecast).
  • Wi-fi homes: Refers to the 97 million U.S. homes that have wireless internet.


1Source: YouTube Internal Data; Global, March 11 - April 10, 2020.
2Source: YouTube Internal Data, 2020.
3Google/Talkshoppe, US, whyVideo study, n=2000 A18-64 Genpop video users (73% for viewers of YT vs 43% for viewers of other platforms), February 2020
Note: All other references are sourced from Comscore OTT Intelligence, U.S.

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