Creators on YouTube had a rough year in with prominent large advertisers leaving the platform over a continuous stream of scandals regarding where their ads show up. In the wake of this, some of my own favorite channels now produce fewer videos than before and others have just disappeared off YouTube.
I gave a little more though to YouTube ads in this context, and realized I don’t actually see any ads when watching YouTube. As it turns outs, there seems to be a bug where YouTube don’t show ads when using Google Chromecast and the YouTube app for Android or Chrome on PC where ads just don’t show up.
I do see ads on YouTube when watching on mobile, desktop, and on the YouTube app for Xbox One and PlayStation 4. I can’t say I’ve missed the ads, but I don’t believe I’ve seen more than one advertisement in the last 12 months on Chromecast.
I watch about 40–80 minutes of YouTube videos per day all played on my projector through Chromecast and the YouTube app. The creators I watch don’t earn anything off me. I’ve asked around among friends and on various online channels, and people located outside the United States don’t appear to see ads while using the Chromecast with the YouTube app. This isn’t conclusive of anything other than that others experience the same problem as I do.
I can switch to using the YouTube app on Xbox One or PlayStation 4. However, neither have nay sort of play-queue or playlist handling. I can prepare playlists beforehand on other devices, but this is more inconvenient than just using YouTube on mobile with the Chromecast. The console editions of YouTube also have trouble updating playlists, and I would often have to force-quit the apps and do the restart-app dance to get them to update. Videos played on the console editions of the YouTube app also stutter and have playback issues. My YouTube experience would be made worse and I’d end up seeing more loud and distracting ads to boot.
But is it a problem that I don’t see ads? I’m really split over this. As I mentioned above, I don’t use ad-blockers as I understand that both websites and creators need to be able to make money. Like them or not, ads are the way of the web until services were visitors can pay websites and creators directly, like Flattr and Brave, gains mass mainstream adoption. However, I’m not actively blocking ads although the technical decisions I’ve made about how I watch videos, and YouTube’s inability to deliver ads in the Chromecast playback queue, effectively cause the same effect.
Ideally, I’d want to see no ads at all on YouTube and rather pay the monthly fee for ad-free viewing with YouTube Red. However, that doesn’t help me her in Norway as YouTube Red isn’t available outside Australia, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, and the United States.
I don’t really know how to feel about this situation. On one hand, the creators I enjoy on YouTube seem to be giving up or at least scaling back their production schedules — and at least some of them are struggling with the reduced returns in advertisement revenue. On the other hand, I’ve not done anything actively to block the ads yet I’m freeloading on the content people spend time and energy to produce in order to entertain me.
Looking around on Reddit and Twitter, you’ll find quite a few positive reactions to “no ads” when using Chromecast and the YouTube app going back to . You’ll find many more complaints about “too many ads” or other problems with the ad-delivery, but people also seem to have notice that ad-delivery has stopped working for them. Google has released a continuous stream of firmware updates to the first generation hardware, and has since released the second revision hardware and the new Chromecast Ultra edition. How come people are still having these kind of issues?
I’ve reset my Chromecast to factory settings, tried casting to the YouTube app on Xbox One instead of the Chromecast, messed about with locale and region settings – even accessibility and caption settings, created new Google accounts on factory-fresh Android devices, connected to the web through a different internet service provider, and done everything I could think of to troubleshoot this issue. No matter what I do, I always see ads when watching YouTube on the web or in the mobile app, but all the ads go away as soon as I connect over Chromecast. As soon as the Google Cast protocol is involved, all ads just go away.
Google reported sales of 55 million Chromecasts worldwide in . Here in Norway, the largest electronics retailer in Norway alone sold 1 million Chromecast devices in a country of only 2,38 million private households.
The point I’m trying to make is that a lot of people have Chromecasts. At least some of these people are probably also using their Chromecast. How many of them only see one advert per year like I am? How is this effecting creators on YouTube? How come YouTube hasn’t noticed the problem and issued a fix? I’m sure they’ve got statistics and graphs of everything under the sun. Including failed ad-insertion opportunities and ads-per-video rates per device type.
I don’t have any answers. YouTube and big algorithms work in mysterious and opaque ways. However, this issue seems like it deserves some human attention from YouTube engineers. After all, this affects YouTube’s own bottom line and not only the creators on their platform.