Documentary Business

Peter Hamilton Consultants, Inc

YouTube: Billions in Revenues Expand Documentary Commissions. Netflix’s Audience Share

YouTube’s 15th Birthday:  A Growing  Industry Power-house.

  • For months, I’ve been hearing about YouTube commissions for documentaries and specials.
  • Very respectable US and UK producers are the beneficiaries.
  • Generous budgets are in the $750,000 – $1.5 million range.
  • Topics have included the youth-targeted categories of pop culture and music celebrity bio-docs.
  • YouTube’s head of Originals, Susanne Daniels said that she will double her output in 2020, with more than 100 films and series planned.



Google‘s recent full year 2019 earnings report reveals that YouTube‘s 2020 revenues could top $25 billion:

  • That’s mainly from advertising sales.
  • But also for subscriptions to the heavily-advertised SVOD service You Tube TV.
  • YouTube TV is separate from YouTube, the free video streaming service with more than 2 billion users a month.
  • YouTube TV offers a cable-TV-like experience of 70+ channels through a variety of devices.
  • These include Apple TV, Roku, Android TV, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, numerous smart TVs, phones, tablets and web browsers.
  • The cost is $50 / month.

Peter’s Takeaways

  • I couldn’t understand what was driving YouTube’s commissions.
  • Then I read that YT TV’s SVOD revenue estimate for 2020 is $1.5 billion.
  • That flow is driving deals for Originals as well as premium licenses across genres from major Sports to Unscripted.
  • The basic, free YouTube service also commissions documentaries.
  • Backed by Google, YouTube has emerged as a major long-term competitor to Netflix, Disney +, Amazon Prime, etc.
  • YouTube will become a major player in the prestigious documentary category as well as in Unscripted series.
  • I will bring you more detailed coverage soon.

Nielsen’s Surprising Report on Netflix Viewing

Nielsen’s February 2020 Total Audience Report reveals that in Q4 ’19, streaming accounted for just 19% of total TV usage time.

Within that 19% streaming slice:

  • Netflix has 31%
  • YouTube 21%
  • Hulu 12%
  • Amazon 8%.
  • All other: 28%.


  • Netflix is winning around 6% of all US TV usage, according to the Nielsen data.
  • That’s less  than I expected.
  • But it indicates how much growth there is to be harvested in the SVOD market.
  • Time spent streaming has doubled in less than two years.
  • And that at a time when network operators like Discovery are reducing their programming spend and competitiveness.

Documentary Production Roadmap