CES 2016: ‘Digital Will Win the Decade’

YouTube’s Robert Kyncl Says Digital Poised to Eclipse ‘TV’
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YouTube may not take over the world by 2020, but digital video will, predicts one of YouTube’s top execs.

“Digital will win the decade,” Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s chief business officer, said Thursday during a CES keynote that was also livestreamed via Periscope. 

He said digital video will “replace” TV in part because it’s immersive in ways that TV can’t be, is endlessly diverse, and is inherently mobile. Digital video, he said, "will become the single largest way people spend their free time.

“I don’t think digital video will grow linearly; I think it will grow exponentially,” Kyncl added, holding fast to a prediction that digital formats will present 75% of the total viewing pie by 2020.

Playing into that trend is the fact that digital is inherently mobile, and is being aided by bigger, sharper and brighter screens that can go with you, the exec said, offering a stat that 400 hours of video is shared on YouTube every minute.

Kyncl also sees some parallels with how cable TV evolved, as channels like ESPN, CNN, AMC and  MTV  emerged to target audiences with niche offerings.

All of them grew and then found success generating original content.

YouTube, Kyncl said, is at a “similar inflection point” as it ups investment in originals for its new YouTube Red subscription service, which is also rumored to be seeking TV licensing deals.

But there are also some differences. YouTube “is a democratic platform…anyone can create something everyone can watch,” he said.

Kyncl also discussed YouTube’s increasingly involving with virtual reality and 360-degree video, including its partnership with GoPro for a 16-camera array under the Odyssey brand that can automatically stich together captured video with Google Jump. Google-led VR project underway, called Jump, a system that will enable consumers to product and share VR videos. 

GoPro CEO Nick Woodman, who later joined the stage, called VR “what’s next,” noting that it allows consumers to capture their experiences and take others “along for the ride.”

“There’s nothing gimmicky about VR,” Woodman said.

Klyncl also offered a brief update on YouTube’s ongoing plans with 4K, announcing that the OTT specialist will be adding support for High Dynamic Range (HDR).