A Short History of Online Video, Part 2 – 2006 onward: The YouTube Years

A history of online video - part 2

In part 1 of this series you got a quick introduction to the history of online video which documented how both content and technology progressed in tandem to allow for increasingly innovative and creative programming.

These developments were critical and proved Bill Gates correct when he commented that in the digital world “Content is King”. Increasingly it became clear that video reigns supreme.

So let’s begin with 2006, where we left off last time.


Google buys YouTube

On the 9th of October 2006 Google acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock. It was Google’s largest purchase to date and it raised eyebrows because YouTube was far from being profitable at the time. What made it attractive were its 19 million monthly viewers. In Hindsight it’s easy to see that Google was getting ahead of the curve with this purchase clearly foreseeing the internet’s potential to out-space television for consumers and advertisers.

Flash overtakes downloading

Flash player technology overtakes the practice of downloading files as the industry standard for viewing online video.


YouTube used as a political tool

John Edwards bypasses traditional TV outlets and announces his candidacy for the US presidency on YouTube. He is the first, but not the last, do to so. From this point forward, political candidates begin to integrate video content in their campaigns via blogs and websites.

UStream launches

Ustream is launched and offers the opportunity for users to produce and broadcast live programming just like TV stations. In essence, the viewer now has the capacity to become their own network TV news anchor. Look out, BBC!

Netflix starts offering titles via streaming

Netflix, the DVD by mail subscription service, takes notice of online viewing trends and makes the pivot towards offering titles via streaming video.

iPhone puts video in our hand

The iPhone is introduced. The world’s video content is available at our fingertips.


Hulu begins retransmitting on-demand content from major television networks. Now, you no longer have to rush home from doing errands and risk missing the first five minutes of your favorite program. Families everywhere come closer together as TV remote related fights become obsolete.


Introducing the Streamy

The popularity and creativity of user generated online video is acknowledged by the International Academy of Web Television at its first ever “Streamy” Awards.

The awards recognize the best in web TV production in a variety of categories including directing, writing and acting. As you might have guessed already, the entire awards ceremony is streamed live.

U2 make streaming history

Over 10 million viewers stream U2’s 360° Rose Bowl concert held on October 25 in Los Angeles California. It is the largest streaming event to date, and allows the 97,000 in attendance to connect with U2 fans across the globe.


Millions worldwide bypass traditional media outlets and use their computers and mobile devices to surf over to Ustream to watch every second of the Chilean miner rescue. It becomes the year’s most-watched Ustream event.


A new streaming record is set as 400 million watch the nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton. U2 fans demand a recount.


Today, more than half of the world’s population enjoys watching TV, videos, movies, and live events online. Producers of major events have taken notice and incorporated this technology into their broadcast plans. For example, nearly every 2012 Summer Olympic event was streamed.

What next?

It’s not unreasonable to assume that the number of online video consumers will undoubtedly increase as the market share for smart phones increases. Cisco predicts that by 2016, 86% of internet traffic will be online videos. Better technology, especially increasing bandwidth, will provide for a superior viewing experience enticing more viewers online. Ultimately, it will be the convergence of technology and content that will give the consumer the freedom to choose what content to watch and the options when and where to watch it. This will make online video a serious alternative to watching TV or going to the movies.

So, as the The Buggles sang in their early 80’s hit “Video Killed the Radio Star” will online video bring on the demise of the traditional TV or movie star?

One will have to wait and see. Most likely, online…

Guest post by Jose Collazo