How Many People Watch YouTube’s Original Series? Shhh. It’s a Secret


This morning, YouTube—who has clearly been clearly reading the streaming-video tea leaves—launched its very own subscription video service. Like Netflix, Amazon Video, and other platforms, YouTube Red also came loaded with its own original movies and series. Despite their high production value, though, these “Red Originals” have a distinctly homegrown feel: starring YouTube celebrities like PewDiePie and Lilly Singh, and made for YouTube fans, it really should have been called YouTube Squared.

There’s one thing about the Red Originals that’s very un-YouTube, though. That place at the bottom-right of the videos on their homepage that used to tick up every time a new fan watched? That view count is gone. Despite YouTube’s insistence that data like watch time and engagement are more valuable, the upshot is that the company is being very careful not to let you know how many people have watched them.

That opacity has always been part of what Netflix (and Amazon) do, and the fact that their viewership numbers are kept more secret than junior high schooler’s new crush has been a point of contention for quite some time. Short of a few key leaks or estimations, no one knows how many people are watching, say, Jessica Jones or Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt—not even the shows’ creators.

But those are companies trying to compete with TV networks and movie studios. Showing a view count has been an integral part of YouTube’s identity from the beginning. Its creators base their credibility on it; Internet pontificators determine something’s virality based on it. if something hits a million views in a day, it’s officially a Big Deal. While YouTube Red Originals releasing Lazer Team from popular creators Rooster Teeth is already significant, we’ll never know how popular it really is.

There are defensible reasons for the decision, to be sure. With only three movies and one series on offer, people may be less inclined to spend the $9.99 entry price if they know not that many people have watched and enjoyed the slate. And certainly, with other subscription services not revealing their viewership data, there’s less pressure for YouTube to do so. But in the overly quantified world of the Internet—1,200 Likes! 5.1K retweets!—seeing a YouTube video with a blank space where the views used to be just makes it feel a little empty.

[By Angela Watercutter] [From Wired] [Read More]

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