How much money does YouTube make? Don't ask the new CFO

One of Wall Street’s favourite guessing games has long been to estimate how much revenue YouTube generates and whether the popular video website actually turns a profit.

With a new CFO at Google (YouTube’s parent company), some analysts and investors were hoping the time had finally come for Google to come clean. But Google CFO Ruth Porat parried repeated questions seeking clarity on YouTube’s financials during the company’s Q2 conference call.

In one lengthy answer to an inquiring analyst, Porat acknowledged how important it was for investors to have the right “framework” for understanding the business and said she was committed to being “direct” with The Street.

But don’t confuse direct with transparent.

“I won’t give you competitively sensitive information,” Porat noted.

Still, Porat left the door open to some new metrics in the future, though they are unlikely to be in the form of GAAP revenue and profit numbers.

“I’m trying to understand how best to provide more insight into the drivers of the business, beyond what is currently provided and it’s really too early to be more specific than that,” she said.

The last financial figures for YouTube came from a February Wall Street Journal report whose anonymous sources pegged 2014 revenue at roughly $US4 billion a year and profit at a “roughly break even” level.

Google did share other statistics about YouTube on the call, including the fact that the average viewing session on mobile devices is now 40 minutes long.

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