From Desktop to Mobile to CTVs: The Shift in YouTube Viewership

When YouTube was developed in 2005, desktop computers were the main platforms where people viewed its content. In 2012, the first YouTube app launched, and 35% of smartphone users were viewing its content on their mobile devices. Today, the majority of YouTube videos are viewed on mobile, but we are starting to see another shift in viewership. Over the last year, YouTube viewership has steadily shifted towards connected TVs (CTVs).

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What’s going on and what does this mean for your media plan? A few interesting points to note based on this study from eMarketer are below, along with our predictions how these facts might influence your media buy in the next few months:

  • Fact: Of the 25% of TV time spent with streaming video, 20% goes to YouTube, making it the second-most-watched digital video platform after Netflix (34% share), per Q2 2020 data from Nielsen.
    • What it means: To best reach the cord-cutting audience, or audiences who prefer on-demand programming, a layer of YouTube targeted to CTVs should be included within Streaming TV strategies.


  • Fact: In Q3 2020, OTT/CTV accounted for 34.4% of time spent with YouTube, up from 27.0% in Q4 2019.
    • What it means: A third of people are watching YouTube content on their CTVs. By not including a layer of CTV in your YouTube strategy, you’re missing out on reaching this audience.


  • Fact: Watch time on TV screens of sports videos (excluding live content) increased by more than 65% year over year (YoY), according to YouTube’s internal numbers for July 2020.
    • What it means: The increasing interest in the category will be something to keep an eye on. When new interest categories become popular, they often spark new content, new features, and attract larger audiences. This is an area to keep an eye on throughout 2021.

As we continue into 2021, we foresee many opportunities to include exclusive CTV campaigns for our clients’ media recommendations. The shift from mobile to CTVs is steadily increasing each quarter, and we are watching this trend intently to ensure that our media recommendations stay relevant within these predictions.