Google's Earnings Teased Some Pretty Audacious Plans for Streaming Content

The company has big aspirations for YouTube and its new game streaming service.

Sundar Pichai, SVP of Android, Chrome and Apps at Google

Google’s earnings calls are not all that exciting, and tend to mostly center on advertising clicks and the company’s competitive advantage in A.I.. While the company has its famous “other bets” arm with all kinds of exciting investments in autonomous driving and healthcare, it is at the core very much still an advertising business, though that’s starting to change.

The company seems to have more ambitious plans to begin producing more original content, for one. The duo revealed during its Monday evening earnings call that its video platform YouTube had amassed 2 billion monthly users by the tail end of 2018. That means more than a quarter of the world’s population visited the site in one month. All that growth had investors primed for more specific updates about YouTube’s business, including specific revenue numbers.

The fact that these numbers didn’t get reported sent the company’s stock falling close to 3 percent in after-hours trading.

But these wings of the business hardly went unmentioned. Indeed, Pichai teased a pretty audacious plan for its streaming services, both by suggesting that the company plans to mold YouTube into something that resembles a more traditional news service, and by rolling out a game streaming platform to coincide with the introduction of 5G.

The YouTube News Network?

In terms of YouTube, the CEO laid out a idealistic, perhaps naive, outlook for YouTube in the years to come.

“In the long run, I think for me, YouTube is a place where we see users not only come for entertainment,” he said during the call. “They come to find information. They’re coming to learn about things. They’re coming to discover, to research.”

This statement is something of a mischaracterization, YouTube is already a destination for news in addition to entertainment, and has recently drawn sharp criticism over the amount of propaganda and conspiracy theories that abound on the site. At the very least, it seems like Pichai was trying to quell advertiser concerns by offering up more moderation. But his remarks — “in the long run” — also seems to leave open the door to YouTube one day making its own news content.

Unfortunately, Pichai did not offer a lot of specifics about how YouTube could otherwise evolve from being an entertainment site into a trustworthy destination for serious research, only that this would require a mix of human moderators and machine learning.

Project Stream, the Future of Gaming?

Aside from endless video content, Google also plans to dive deeper into gaming. Pichai said the company was set on making Project Stream, Google’s cloud-gaming platform, into a full-fledged product. He pointed to encouraging reviews on its beta test and the global roll out of 5G browsing standards as two opportunities Project Stream could seize upon.

“Being able to deliver gaming with real-time, low-latency requirements, is an important computing advancement,” he said. “It’ll help us drive the newer computing platforms we’re working on as 5G rolls out.”

So far, Project Stream lets PC gamers try out games like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey without the need of downloading them. Just like Netflix, Google’s cloud servers would host the games instead of requiring that users host them locally.

5G connectivity will give users access to blazing fast internet speeds without the need of wifi. This could let users play online games on their phones with no lag. As the computing limitations facing would-be gaming streaming services are eliminated, expect to hear a lot more about Project Stream going forward.