The decade that YouTube changed TV

Emma Grey Ellis:

Without YouTube, late night TV barely exists. That’s not because Lilly Singh, a YouTuber with nearly 15 million subscribers, made television history in September by taking over Carson Daly’s slot on NBC. No, not really. A Little Late with Lilly Singh is just the latest installment in a trend that began 10 years ago, when Jimmy Fallon, then helming Late Night with Jimmy Fallon and getting only middling reviews, went viral after inviting Justin Timberlake to help him rhyme his way through the history of rap. The “History of Rap” video got twice as many views online as it did on air, an upset that would soon become the norm.

In the years since, Fallon (and compatriots like Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, John Oliver, James Corden, and Samantha Bee) have engineered their shows to be consumable as YouTube clips. They’ve altered the late-night format to resonate with whatever trends and #Challenges are sweeping across the platform. Popular YouTubers have become regular entrants to the show’s guest rotations. It’s not so much that YouTube has gone mainstream as the mainstream has gone YouTube.

Taking over TV is quite the coup for a platform that got its start just 15 years ago above a pizzeria in San Mateo, California, and it’s not just late-night television that’s ceding territory to the big red play button. Just about all video media consumed around the world, whether it’s a highbrow movie or a comedy variety show, has to acknowledge and interact with YouTube somehow—in its marketing, in its release, in its post-theater sale strategy.

MacDailyNews Take: Remember when people were saying Apple should buy YouTube? But, if Apple had, the YouTube of today would likely be dramatically different.

Google bought YouTube in 2006 for about half of what Apple paid for Beats eight years later.

See Apple’s YouTube channel here, Apple TV’s YouTube channel , and Apple Support’s YouTube channel .


  1. I watch more YouTube than anything else. At times I have described it as a national treasure.

    Anytime I like I can see film clips going back in time to the moments when motion picture cameras found their way into the hands of photographers.

    There are bonafide experts on nearly every subject offering videos on their topic for free. And I mean good stuff.

    There are tons of documentaries and short subjects. There are tech reviewers galore. If I want to see what it it’s like to configure some obscure router, someone will have put a video up.

    If I want to compare all the major VOIP vendors out there, someone has done it.

    And yes there is lots of garbage, tons of vloggers, craploads of news and politics, but it all boils down to picking what you want to see. Just like all social media, no one ties you up, sews your eyes open, and sticks Donald Trump or Nancy Pelosi in front of you. But if you do want to get into politics, chances are the independent journalists on YouTube have higher quality, better fact checked information than the mainstream media.

    They quality and level of much of the high end vlog work, as well as many of the tech reviewers surpasses mainstream media.

    And where else can you go to watch a dozen people unboxing and putting the new MacPro and MacBook Pro through their paces?

    Sadly, YouTube is reinventing itself and much of this might go away. They (Google) want to be another NetFlix/AppleTv which is the last fucking thing we need. They’ve been hammering on their algorithm that tells users about new videos and the results are horrible. My stream is usually full of tech, tech reviews, politics, China news, science, engineering, that sort of thing. This morning it’s all freaking CONAN O’Brian clips.

    I HATE late night TV, except for Craig Ferguson. Man he could just smile and make you laugh.

    YouTube also deleted all the cryptocurrency videos or something yesterday.

    Dear YouTube, please don’t destroy this thing you’ve built and start shoving Jimmy Fallon down my throat. I would gladly pay more for YouTube as it is. I’d happily dump all the rest to keep YouTube like a big old farmers market of content.

    1. I watch more Youtube than anything too, but the trend is to shove the most ad lucrative corporate mass media down our throats. I could click “not interested” on a thousand suggested videos and they’ll find a thousand more I don’t want.

      Apple’s approach would have almost certainly been worse though, instead of late-night comedy clips we’d be getting Oprah’s blind, lesbian, Wiccan book club.

  2. Just as an example of value, there was a lady working in a building where I worked as a security guard. She hated the job, but couldn’t figure out what she wanted to do. I kept telling her that she’s young, so now is the time to figure it out and keep your imagination wide open. I told her she could be anything, that she didn’t necessarily need a university degree. As an off the top comment I said “Hell become a pilot. Become a freaking Helicopter pilot!”

    When I next saw her she said she was seriously considering the Helicopter Pilot thing after watching a ton of YouTube videos introducing you to it. A year and a half later I saw her. She came up to see me at the same building. I asked how it was going, and she whipped out her cool black pilot’s sun glasses and put them on. She’d just passed her commercial pilot exam.

    She was headed to Atlanta for her first job interview. There were hundreds of jobs open across the country for commercial helicopter pilot. The job she was interviewing for was just shy of 6 figures. She was in her way.

    All it took was a few YouTube videos to make her think “I can do this!”

    So much more valuable than Jimmy Fallon.

  3. F-n great story. People need regular reminders of life’s possibilities for their own lives…like the words you relayed to the woman, now woman pilot.

    Yes, per YT thoughts as well.

  4. Until recently, the only time I ever went to YouTube was for the occasional funny animal clip someone sent me. Recently I have discovered the amazing wealth of educational videos for drumming. I have been a long time (now part time) gigging drummer and I have started really practicing again and improving my craft with online lessons. You just have to watch out for distractions (and of course be aware that google tracks all of it)…

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