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Alphabet Finally Discloses Size of YouTube's Ad Business: Over $15 Billion in 2019

Illustration for article titled Alphabet Finally Discloses Size of YouTubes Ad Business: Over $15 Billion in 2019
Photo: Chris McGrath (Getty Images)

Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. has disclosed how much YouTube’s advertising business rakes in for the first time, writing in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission that the streaming giant made just shy of $15.15 billion in ad revenue in fiscal year 2019. It made some $4.79 billion of it in Q4 2019 alone.


Alphabet has long resisted releasing information about the financial performance of its subsidiary companies, the most notable of which are Google and YouTube. Per Marketwatch, Alphabet’s hand seems to have been forced by rules implemented in 2017 that require investors to receive the same financial results as the chief decision-maker at the company; it previously claimed that CEO Larry Page didn’t see the results broken down by unit. But Google CEO Sundar Pichai was promoted to CEO of Alphabet last year following Page and co-founder Sergey Brin’s decision to take a backseat, meaning that the company could no longer hide the data from investors. Pichai and Chief Financial Officer Ruth Porat both said the official rationale for the disclosure was to provide extra “insight into our business.”

2019's YouTube ad revenue was an increase from 2018, when it made just shy of $11.16 billion, according to the disclosures. (Those tallies don’t include other revenue YouTube makes, such as YouTube Music and YouTube Premium, which collectively have 20 million subscribers.) Other figures released on Monday include the revenue of Google’s Cloud business, which is fighting against Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure. That rolled in just short of $8.91 billion in 2019, up from $5.84 billion in 2018.


“Our investments in deep computer science, including artificial intelligence, ambient computing and cloud computing, provide a strong base for continued growth and new opportunities across Alphabet,” Pichai wrote in the release.

The numbers hammer home how much bigger YouTube is than other streaming services—AdWeek noted that Hulu’s 2019 ad revenue was a comparatively paltry $700 million, alongside $1.3 billion in subscriber revenue—but Alphabet’s overall Q4 2019 performance at $46.07 billion in sales missed analyst expectations of $46.94 billion. That’s the worst Q4 revenue growth Alphabet has posted since 2015, according to the Guardian. Google’s hardware business also apparently didn’t do so well, with CNET reporting that Porat mentioned “declining hardware revenue,” though it’s not clear from the release which specific product lines are missing the mark.

However, Alphabet did deliver shareholder earnings of $15.35 per share, beating expectations of $12.53. That wasn’t enough to stem an after-hours trading drop, with Alphabet falling over four percent, according to the Guardian.

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I wonder how much of that ad revenue actually resulted in sales for the advertisers. Having a video interrupted by an advert for a product pretty much guarantees a negative association with that product because the viewer is irritated by it. If someone watches both the videos that YouTube now shows before or after a video it's usually because the person has left their phone on a side somewhere and is ignoring it. I'm willing to bet that Alphabet knows this, and added double video showing purely to bump the advertising placement numbers to increase revenue, with no regard to actual effectiveness.