While YouTube, the popular video-sharing platform, has pervaded the global Internet culture, it’s clear that it is primarily American. One fifth of YouTube’s traffic comes from the United States, and YouTube had more than 170 million American users as of 2015.
However, that doesn’t make YouTube small in the Czech Republic, even though the local YouTube platform was only launched in 2008. According to a study by Konektor Social, a Czech social media relations firm, over 70% of Czech Internet users visit YouTube on a weekly basis. It’s a huge hit with Czech millennials- 91% of 18-34 year olds watch YouTube, and they watch it more than they do any Czech TV channels.
So what does one find on Czech YouTube? Looking at the top Czech YouTuber accounts, most native channels seem to focus on gaming or comedy entertainment. This somewhat increases the visibility of Czech Youtubers outside of the Czech Republic; for one, gaming videos are not as reliant on shared language to be of use or entertaining to the viewer. I also noted that ViralBrothers, the most subscribed-to Czech channel (almost 2.7 million subscribers), conducts their prank videos in English with Czech subtitles. Another popular Czech YouTube user, Hoggy, has comedic short films without dialogue.
What is not so easy to find when sketching out the Czech YouTube scene, though, is the average viewer experience. The Konektor Social study claims that Czech YouTube viewers commonly watch product reviews, talkshows, local and international music videos, and various short videos. The Czechs that I have met while in Prague are English and Czech speaking, and thus might have different YouTube video choices than their compatriots throughout the country. I am mostly curious to know if YouTube has become a part of the culture here as it has back in the United States; I have noted in the recent years that many of my social hangouts with friends involve YouTube viewing, and have heard others echo the same observation. While on the one hand I believe that the attraction to digital video content is international, especially among my age group, I also wonder if YouTube is able to be such a part of youth culture in the United States because it is largely English-speaking. The lack of content available in Czech might limit the platform’s infiltration into everyday social practices (although, admittedly, many YouTube videos are of cat and dog antics and funny home videos that don’t necessarily rely on language).
An interesting note that I made during my research is that a good number of the high-subscriber/view channels are owned by Vidadu Networks (based in the Czech Republic). The role of multi-channel networks within the YouTube community is to aggregate various YouTube channels so that together, they have the business clout to access pricier production and legal resources and make branding and marketing deals with corporations. It seems that the Czech YouTube is on its way to becoming as commercial as mainstream YouTube- as Konektor Social points out in its study for potential clients, YouTube acts as an audience aggregator for the coveted millennial/digital generation. This will likely increase the number of Czech YouTubers (drawn by a promise of financial and popular success), and thus increase the platform’s local cultural and social importance.
Featured image: Screenshot of ViralBrother’s homepage taken by Theresa Schmid