While YouTube’s massive audiences and piling ad dollars make it difficult to deny the platform’s dominance in media today, Shark Tank star Mark Cuban isn’t buying the hype.
Strategically speaking, Cuban says, the Google-owned service has mismanaged itself at every turn. “They tried to do subscriptions – failed,” Cuban says, referring to a paid pilot program launched in 2013, which currently allows about 300 channels to charge viewers for access to content.
Today, having gained little traction, YouTube is said to be “fine-tuning the experience” with the rumored addition of ad-free and offline viewing features for release in coming months.
Cuban also took aim at YouTube’s paid music subscription service, Music Key, which is currently in beta. “They’re trying to do music,” Cuban said, looking out at the audience. “Is anybody on YouTube subscription that didn’t get it for free?” That service is also poised to launch in coming months, said YouTube’s head of content and business operations, Robert Kyncl, with subscriptions costing $7.99 per month.
While Cuban did concede that YouTube boasts sweeping viewership – mostly as a “great time-killer” for young people – he questions the company’s economic viability down the road: “What have they done right?”
A recent eMarketer report, which found that YouTube’s ad revenues totaled $1.13 billion – comprising 19 percent of the digital video ad market in the U.S. – may beg to differ. However, the report also concluded that future growth may be hindered by a glut of unprofessional content on YouTube amid competitors who are toying with higher production value, like AOL and Yahoo.
At the end of the day, Cuban’s beef may stem from a personal bias. He made his fortune by selling Broadcast.com, an online television site, to Yahoo in 1999 for $5.7 billion at the height of the dot-com bubble. Though the service ultimately proved to be ahead of its time and shuttered shortly thereafter, Cuban still seems bitter about YouTube’s eventual ascendance.
Cuban is also an investor in Ocho, a short-form social video app.