If Amazon owned YouTube…

We got a BT Sport subscription last month to watch Champions League and Europa League matches. The stream (we watch on the TV using Chromecast) often paused and skipped, often over entire plays, and at least once over a long sequence including the goal. It was terrible.

Before the finals, we remembered that BT Sport streams the two finals free on YouTube. So, halfway through the Europa cup final, I switched to streaming from YouTube. It was flawless. There was no pause-and-skip. At all! For the Champions League final, I didn’t even bother switching on the BT Sport app, and went direct to watching on YouTube.

BT Sport isn’t the only company with a terrible live streaming product. Eurosport player’s pause-and-skip is terrible, making all sports unwatchable. ITV is so aware of its terrible product that it doesn’t even offer live streaming on Chromecast, only recorded programs are available. These are just the ones I’ve tried1.

This got me thinking. YouTube has some of the best2 streaming infrastructure and knowhow. For instance, they understand that continuity is more important than quality in live streaming, so their algorithm dynamically reduces video quality instead of pausing live streams. They have content delivery deals with most network providers globally, helping reduce lag and data transfer. They basically already have all the infrastructure for a successful streaming platform.

What would Amazon have done if it owned YouTube in its current state? They would have productised the YouTube streaming platform, a la AWS and Amazon logistics, and opened it up for any company to use.

Every media company in the world, from giants like Disney and Sky, to minnows like regional TV channels need a streaming service. A few may just create a channel on YouTube or Facebook. For everyone else it’s a choice between spending a considerable sum to put in place the vast infrastructure and knowhow, or create a basic product and brace for user lashback/apathy3.

A ready to plug-in YouTube scale streaming infrastructure would give the small and medium sized media companies a big boost in their efforts to go digital. For the media companies, such a YouTube Cloud will

  • massively reduce the time to market for digital products,
  • convert a large part of the initial capital investment into a marginal cost, and
  • let them focus on content and user interface, instead of learning about web streaming infrastructure.

For YouTube, the Cloud service will

  • create a new revenue stream and further scale/subsidise YouTube’s own streaming platform,
  • create a data opportunity*, and
  • develop relationships with other media companies which can be used for business or political angles.

[* See Amazon’s use of marketplace data for own label products, or alleged use of AWS data for own products.]

For me, I would again be able to subscribe to and watch EuroSport without cursing at them loudly every 15 minutes! I miss all the cycling, athletics, swimming, and biathlon.

Sadly, Amazon doesn’t own YouTube. Google does. And Google is terrible at productising services, specially B2B non-advertising services. It took them ages to create a public Google Cloud offering despite being leaders (intra-company) in cloud and container technologies. Even then they’ve been struggling to make a success of the offering. Not to speak of how they’ve let slip the early success of G Suite.

I can think of more reasons of why Google will NOT create such a cloud product out of YouTube’s streaming capabilities, than I can think for why they might. For one, YouTube sees itself as a media company (and aggregator); a media cloud product will be an antithesis to them. Google’s famously siloed corporate culture is another—Google Cloud lives in a different organisation from YouTube. Their lack of customer service is another—if selling/implementing a service successfully needs hand holding, Google can’t do it4.

What a pity! I guess I’ll have to stick to watching cycling highlights on YouTube then.

  1. I’m skipping the one which is actually good at live streaming—Sky Sports with its Now TV app. 
  2. The only other company that is as good at streaming infrastructure and knowhow is Netflix,  but media companies consider it as a direct, immediate competition. Amazon’s Prime Video service is good too, but not yet at the same level as YouTube and Netflix. 
  3. Then use that customer apathy/lashback to claim that streaming isn’t economically viable. 
  4. Look at the popularity of their Firebase dev cloud aimed at developers who can figure things out themselves. Contrast this with struggles of parent Google Cloud aimed at enterprises who need assistance and service with integrations and more. 

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