It’s time for Alphabet to spin off YouTube

It could be worth more than Netflix

COMPARED WITH the attention heaped on Bob Iger’s return to the helm of Disney and the stepping back of Reed Hastings at Netflix, news on February 16th that Susan Wojcicki would resign from YouTube after nine years as CEO caused barely a rustle in the media pages. That is a sign of two things. First, how little attention Wall Street analysts and entertainment-industry scribblers pay to the business of YouTube, even though it has become a hub—as well as a byword—for global video. Second, how overshadowed it is by the teetering ramparts of its parent company, Alphabet. Sundar Pichai, the tech giant’s beleaguered boss, is fighting wars on so many fronts, from Microsoft’s ChatGPT-inspired encroachment on Google search to trustbusters and the Supreme Court, that the goings-on at YouTube must seem like a sideshow.

That does a disservice to Ms Wojcicki. Her decision to hand over to her lieutenant, Neal Mohan, may not have come at the pinnacle of YouTube’s success. A combination of an advertising slowdown and competition from TikTok, an addictive short-video app, has helped lead to its second consecutive quarter of year-on-year decline in ad revenues. Yet on her watch, YouTube has become so integral to the entertainment landscape that to many it is DIY handbook, cookbook, childminder, jukebox, yoga instructor, news channel and time sink, all rolled into one. It has 2.6bn monthly active users and a simple but effective revenue-sharing model that millions of creators rely on to keep pouring stuff out. Its response to TikTok, YouTube Shorts, averages 50bn views a day.

Data published last month by Benedict Evans, a tech commentator, underscored just how far the platform has gone beyond social-media video to more mainstream content. In America,…