TikTok reportedly overtakes YouTube in US average watch time

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

TikTok’s users now spend more time each month watching content than YouTube users, according to a report from app analytics firm App Annie. In the US, ByteDance’s app first overtook YouTube in August last year, and as of June 2021 its users watched over 24 hours of content per month, compared with 22 hours and 40 minutes on Google’s video platform. In the UK the difference is even more stark: TikTok overtook YouTube in May last year and users there now reportedly watch almost 26 hours of content a month, compared to less than 16 on YouTube.

The figures only include viewership on Android phones, however, so may not be representative of mobile users as a whole. But caveats aside, they show the extent of TikTok’s meteoric rise over just a few short years, and are even more impressive given the three minute maximum of most of its videos, compared to the 10 minute format preferred by many YouTubers. Not to mention the fact that for much of 2020, TikTok faced continued threats that it would be banned in the US amidst chaotic negotiations (Biden formally revoked Trump’s executive orders earlier this year).

TikTok first overtook YouTube in the US in August last year.
Image: App Annie
In the UK TikTok’s lead is even greater.
Image: App Annie

YouTube is still ahead in time spent overall, no doubt because of its two billion users compared to TikTok’s roughly 700 million, BBC News notes. Again, excluding iOS users and users of the app renamed Douyin in China, YouTube is still number one in terms of time spent on Android phones among “Social and Entertainment Apps” as of the first half of this year, with TikTok in at number five behind three Facebook apps: Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram. Users also spend more money on YouTube than TikTok across both iOS and Android worldwide (excluding Android users in China), according to App Annie’s data.

If you’re curious as to exactly how TikTok found such success, App Annie reckons “Short-video, authentic content and live streaming” are the reasons. So it’s unsurprising that YouTube is attempting to ape TikTok’s short-form video format with the launch of its own YouTube Shorts.


Because TikTok inserts ads as separate clips. Not as interruptions to every clip. Making it more ideal to stay engaged. Google on the other hand, only knows how to engage the data they want, not the viewers or the consumers.


Maybe it’s just me, but I find hardly find the two platforms comparable for the ad format to be an issue when it comes to viewing time. YouTube creators largely have an "episode" concept, while TikTok is mainly snippets. There are content creators I know that are on both and I prefer the more in-depth episode offering over the snippet provided on TikTok. But that’s all personal preference I guess.

I know Americans have short attention spans and can’t be bothered to give more than 30 seconds of their time…well, unless you’re Quibi then don’t bank on that proving true.

I don’t feel like I am the target audience for TikTok, but I can even get addicted to it for far too long at times. It’s such a good time waster. With youtube I spend more time finding something to watch than actually watching anything. That is also the downside of it though, it requires constant interaction and what I like about youtube is I can just have something going off to the side as I’m working.

Good point…darn algorithm.

I know Americans have short attention spans and can’t be bothered to give more than 30 seconds of their time…

TikTok’s popularity is hardly unique to America.

I think more than that, is the constant struggle to serve the ads properly, it freezes the playback in an odd way, the wait for it to load and just then it starts counting, then to get back it must load the video again, it’s never seamless like you would have on a podcast or live tv

I can’t stand ads on YouTube. And I can’t stand how everyone tries to stretch every video with fillers to get to the 10 min mark.

Not sure if posting about such terrifying crimes and anarchy is against The Verge rules, but it’s actually incredibly easy to get rid of YouTube ads on PC and mobile both if you bother googling it. I haven’t seen a single YouTube ad in years now, despite using it every day.

This is likely why so many youtubers have moved on to sponsor segments included in their videos, which is fine by me as they are easily skippable.

I only see ads when using youtube in the tv. Which is why I don’t use the tv to watch youtube. Youtube’s ads mechanism is so bad that I wonder if it’s not part of the reason why other platforms get so much attention.

Yikes. Did we overdo the weekend and just opt to get IGN to write a clickbait headline and largely meaningless article since its about a singular platform? It’ll be news when TikTok is on as many platforms, it’s not, and getting similar view hours across all platforms, which it’s not.

You are Steve Ballmer when the iPhone was released, and he didn’t see what was coming. TikTok is a real threat to Instagram and Youtube.

Anyone who thinks the numbers on iOS are lower than Android do not understand anything about youth culture – 90% of USA youth own an iPhone. TikTok is crushing YouTube on iPhone in America.

By the way, their ad rate increases and audience sizes prove this.

I didn’t say it’s not a threat to these companies. Saying it got more viewing hours on a singular platform, when the comparison is spread many more platforms, just isn’t meaningful though.

Yeah, I rarely watch youtube on a phone, and if I do it is to watch a quick 20 second how to snip from a google search

Tiktok is absolutely not a threat to Youtube or Instagram. The most popular types of content on both video platforms are markedly different (Youtube has tons of how-tos, let’s plays, official music videos, longer-form content), and Instagram still has no competition when it comes to a photo-based platform that’s used to share much more than just video.

This is like saying that Facebook is going to kill LinkedIn because they’re both networks with information about people. There’s a big different between "alternative" and "threat".

Why do you think Instagram is completely changing to become a clone of TikTok ? Why all this emphasis on Reels and IGTV ? Even Instagram boss Adam Mosseri said that they are not a photo sharing app anymore!
Why is Youtube offering $100M to creators to create Shorts ?

The reality is those apps need users attention. Especially younger users. Every time someone spends one hour watching TikTok videos, that’s one hour they’re not spending anymore on Youtube. Today it’s 1h, tomorrow it’s going to be 2h. And what happens when TikTok starts accepting longer videos ?
What happens when big creators make more videos on TikTok instead of Youtube because that’s more fun and more engaging ?

Same, if users are spending most of their time watching short clips on TikTok instead of sharing photos on Insta, it’s very bad for Insta.

I’m not saying that Youtube/Insta is going to be killed, just that younger users may spend more time on Tiktok and that ad prices are going to go down on YT and Insta

Maybe it is a generational thing between the two…. I’ve never used tik tok , and never desired to use it in any way (even though I’ve seen clips of it through YouTube).,
……………………………………………Where as with YouTube i use all the time; check up on my subscriptions, see new stuff (Like trailers to movies or shows) that people mention, listen to playlists and playlists of music… And even check specific channels that I’m not even subscribed to.

I think there’s also a monetary difference, too; because i paid monthly for YouTube for what seemed like forever, and I’m sure younger viewers don’t buy into subs. , but… Of course they still have to watch the ads.
Id be very curious to know if YouTube (and TikTok) makes more money if you suscribe compared to just sucking up their ads…..

I don’t know how it shakes it out a company level, but I do know that YouTube creators get higher pay per view from paying users than they get from ad revenue on free members.

Instagram and youtube already know this, just some out of touch people here who don’t see it. Instagram has already copied TikTok features to stay competitive and I’m sure Youtube is planning on doing the same.

I found it interesting. It was surprising to me. I knew TikTok was popular (we had to start restricting my daughter’s use of it) but I had no idea that it was already threatening to overtake YouTube. I guess because I always see YouTube videos embedded in just about every website I visit I just felt like YouTube could never be caught by any other video platform.

I wonder if any of that discrepancy could be attributed to people choosing to watch YouTube on larger screens, whereas TikTok can really only be viewed on a phone. I know most YouTube views do come from phones, but they probably still have a pretty sizable viewership on PCs and TV apps. Either way, beating YouTube in any metric is a pretty big deal as they’ve been the only game in town for so long.

You can definitely watch TikToks on PC’s and tablets. Not sure where they’re at on TV / Console apps.

I mean you can, and I admit I haven’t tried but that seems like it would be an awful user experience with the way it is designed on mobile to require interaction to switch to a new video every few seconds.

I’m pretty sure that if you looked at the data, Tiktok would be heavily skewed toward mobile. Because like Instagram, the desktop experience seems like it’s basically just engineered to get you onto the app on your phone.

Whereas Youtube has a ton of desktop viewership, like Netflix, HBO, and platforms like that.

No one is saying that you can’t use any of these services on any device, but it’s pretty clear where the majority of Tiktok’s userbase lies.

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