Since the conception of Youtube, there have been ads on the platform in the form of web banners, with pre roll ads starting to make their appearance in videos in 2008. While it seems that there isn’t much to go off of research-wise besides my own personal account as an avid follower of the platform since around 2011 and other accounts from Youtube fans online, there has been an undeniable growth in the number of individual ads that appear on a single video, especially within the past 5 years.
At present, it’s not unusual to come across videos with 4 or 5 ads, 3 preroll, and 2 post-roll. Longer videos have ads spread throughout them in increments. Ads can be avoided using AdBlock or by paying for a Youtube Premium subscription, and Youtube itself is still free to use unless you account for internet access, so it’s still not even close to what cable is offering, where viewers pay for cable and have to watch countless ads. However, if this increase in the growth of ads continues on the platform it will eventually catch up to cable levels of ads.
Cable companies are able to charge viewers for content while retaining ads because the quality and consistency of cable tv content is much higher than Youtube, and also just because it’s always been that way with tv. As Youtube continues to grow and sponsored content, like Youtube Red, gets better it might start to meet the expectations consumers have for cable tv. Youtube channels in 10 years from now might function and deliver the same things you’d expect from cable channels, including the number of ads.
I’d like to believe that this means media content in the future will be driven more by what the viewers actually want, with ways to interact with media other than just viewership, like comments and likes/dislikes. However, with the recent removal of a Youtubes dislike button, I suspect it will evolve into just another version of the cable.