Either Google (GOOG) is figuring out how turn YouTube from money pit into a real business, or it’s figured out how to convince everyone else that it’s doing so: Estimates for the channel’s revenue potential continue to climb. Earlier estimates pegged YouTube’s 2008 revenue around the $100 million range, but last month Forbes floated a $200 million estimate for this year, and $350 million for next year. Now Citi’s Mark Mahaney says YouTube could generate up to $500 million in net revenue next year.
Google famously hasn’t figured out how to sell ads in the video stream itself, though it keeps promising that it will. Doesn’t matter, Mark says: It can get most of that $500 million from run-of-the mill display ads. This dovetails with anecdotes we’ve heard from other (much smaller) video sites: Their most lucrative opportunities, so far, haven’t been in the videos themselves but on the real estate surrounding it. Think what would happen if someone could actually figure out how to make video advertising work!
Meanwhile, Mark says, some of Google’s other non-core projects — Google Videos, Images, Maps and Finance — may finally start kicking in some cash, too. He projects they’ll generate $265 in incremental net revenue next year.
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