New YouTube Chief Neal Mohan Touts Upcoming Podcast and AI Tools for Creators, Says Channel Memberships Now Top 6 Million

Neal Mohan posted his first open letter to creators as YouTube’s new boss, coming after CEO Susan Wojcicki stepped down last month. Mohan, previously the video platform’s chief product officer, detailed new features and tools coming in 2023 and beyond.

“Creators and artists are the heart of YouTube, and I’ll continue to put them first,” Mohan, whose new title is SVP, head of YouTube, wrote in the letter, continuing the tradition of Wojcicki’s regular updates to creators. “In today’s challenging macroeconomic climate, we’re offering opportunities to grow a business on our platform.”

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Wojcicki exited as CEO after nine years at the helm but will continue in a role as an adviser to Google and Alphabet. According to Mohan’s letter, he first visited YouTube’s offices 15 years ago when it was located above a pizza parlor: “In its earliest start-up days, I saw YouTube’s potential. Now, I’m incredibly excited to lead it into the future.”

In outlining YouTube’s 2023 priorities, Mohan said the platform is “providing more opportunities for creators outside of ads by expanding our subscriptions business, investing in shopping and continually improving our paid digital goods offerings.” Last year, “hundreds of thousands” of YouTube channels made money on the platform for the first time, he wrote.

One of new data points Mohan cited: More than 6 million viewers paid for channel memberships on YouTube as of December 2022, up more than 20% from the prior year. First introduced in 2018, the channel memberships feature lets YouTubers charge a monthly fee (ranging from $1 to $100 in North America) for access to exclusive content, emoji, badges and other perks.

Another area of focus for YouTube in 2023 is podcasts. This year, the platform plans to add new features in YouTube Studio make it easier to publish podcasts, and it also will start bringing both audio and video-first podcasts to users of YouTube Music in the U.S. (with more regions to follow). Later this year, YouTube will provide RSS integration to give podcasters another way to upload their episodes and provide users additional listening options, Mohan wrote.

YouTube also will let creators tap into “the power of AI,” according to Mohan, outlining new video-production tools that are in the works: “Creators will be able to expand their storytelling and raise their production value, from virtually swapping outfits to creating a fantastical film setting through AI’s generative capabilities.” That said, he added, “We’re taking the time to develop these features with thoughtful guardrails.”

Mohan also touted YouTube Shorts as helping boost creators’ reach, with the TikTok-style short videos now generating more than 50 billion daily views, as Google announced last month. This year, YouTube plans to roll out a new tool that lets creators record a Short in a side-by-side layout with both Shorts and YouTube videos “so they can easily add their own take on a trend or join in with reactions,” according to Mohan.

Last month, Shorts creators became eligible to get a cut of ad revenue generated by their videos. Under the program, they can receive a 45% split distributed based on their share of total Shorts views (compared with 55% for long-form videos under the core YouTube Partner Program).

YouTube’s new creator-focused investments, of course, are aimed at boosting total viewing time and engagement — and, by extension, driving up ad dollars. In the fourth quarter of 2022, YouTube’s ad revenue missed analyst estimates, coming in at $7.96 billion in Q4, down 7.8% from a year earlier.

Additional highlights from Mohan’s letter:

  • NFL Sunday Ticket: In December, YouTube announced an exclusive streaming deal for the NFL’s Sunday Ticket out-of-market package, which will be available starting with the 2023 season as an add-on for YouTube TV subscribers and as an a-la-carte package via YouTube’s Primetime Channels. Sunday Ticket will come with ways to engage with other fans, including comments, chats and polls, Mohan wrote. (Google hasn’t announced pricing for the package, which previously was available through DirecTV.) In addition, later this year, YouTube TV will add a new feature that lets viewers watch multiple games at once.

  • Gaming: There were more than 2 trillion gaming-related content views on YouTube in 2022, according to Mohan. (YouTube declined to provide a comparable number for 2021.) In total, YouTube viewers spent more than 120 billion watch-time hours of live and on-demand gaming-related content globally last year, up from 100 billion-plus hours in 2020. In addition, there were over 500 million logged-in daily active viewers of gaming content globally as of December 2022.

  • Auto-Captioning: YouTube provides machine-translated captions for mobile that enable viewers to translate their captions into 16 languages, Mohan noted. To date, YouTube has captioned more than 6 billion videos. More than 1 billion users watching videos with captions enabled every day.

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