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More than 120 million people streamed something 'YouTube-y' on a connected TV in December 2020

YouTube and YouTube TV on Apple TV
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There are more connected TVs is use today than ever. That's thank in no small part to the efforts of companies like Roku, whose connected OS is on more TVs than anyone else. But it's also due to competitors like Amazon Fire TV, and the TV manufacturers themselves — like Sony, LG, Vizio and Samsung. Then you've got the plethora of low-cost connected hardware, like sticks from Roku and Amazon Fire TV, and Chromecast. And the higher-end options from Apple TV, and Android TV.

And so it should come as little surprise when YouTube Chief Product Officer today in a blog post noted that more than 120 million people streamed something from YouTube or YouTube TV on their television. That number was presented in a post that mostly is focused on the advertising ramifications.

But that 120 million number probably needs a little context. Google doesn't give hard and fast numbers on YouTube TV subscriptions like its competitors do. The last number we got as "more than 3 million subscribers" back in October 2020. That puts behind (but in the same ballpark as) Hulu With Live TV, which as of February 2021 had some 4 million subscribers. (Sling TV is the third-largest offering at 2.474 million subscribers.)

The numbers undoubtedly are fuzzy because subscriptions to viewers aren't 1:1, but the simple fact is that there's a big delta between 3 million and 120 million. 

And there's a bigger different between YouTube and YouTube TV.

One is a repository for video, accessible (for better or worse) but just about everyone, with hundreds of thousands of hours of content uploaded every single day. You can watch for free, in exchange for letting ads in front of your eyeballs, or you can pony up a few bucks each month to escape the advertising onslaught. 

The other is what's known as a multichannel video programming distributor. In the old parlance, it's a cable company for the streaming age. YouTube TV handles the infrastructure and secures the rights to all the channels it wants to show, then charges the end user. 

Those are two very different things, lumped into the same 120 million-viewer bucket. But what they do have in common is the advertising platform. Companies are able to get their ads directly in front of YouTube and YouTube TV viewers. And that's who that 120 million number is really aimed at. It's not us as viewers. 

It's about YouTube and YouTube TV's real customers — the advertisers.

Phil Nickinson

Phil spent his 20s in the newsroom of the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, his 30s on the road for and Mobile Nations and is the Dad part of Modern Dad.