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Google Was Forced Into Disclosing YouTube Revenue by SEC

By Donna Fuscaldo - Mar 16, 2020 at 3:10PM

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When Google's parent revealed YouTube revenue for the first time during the fourth quarter the motivation had less to do with transparency and more to do with appeasing a regulator.

Alphabet's (GOOG 5.20%) (GOOGL 5.11%) Google surprised investors when it reported YouTube revenue for the first time in conjunction with its fourth-quarter earnings. 

But investors applauding its increased transparency can be excused if they feel a little duped. Turns out Google was asked to do so by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which requested Google's parent offer up more "quantitative and qualitative" information on its business units

Google Apps


In filings with the SEC

Alphabet disclosed Chief Accounting Officer Amie Thuener O'Toole told the SEC the Internet giant would break out YouTube revenue despite no changes to its ad business. The SEC' requested more information about Alphabet's key businesses when reporting quarterly earnings. To appease regulators Thuener O'Toole told the SEC Alphabet would also provide revenue for its cloud unit, even though it's not required to do so. The executive noted it wasn't providing ad revenue based on mobile and desktop since it doesn't sell advertisements by the type of device. 

YouTube had annual ad revenue of $15 billion in 2019. Meanwhile, Google Cloud revenue was $8.92 billion, up 53% year-over-year. The unit completed 2019 with a more than $10 billion revenue run rate

The revelation about why Alphabet broke out YouTube revenue comes amid other controversy surrounding YouTube. Last week the search giant walked back its ban on ads appearing alongside any videos that mention coronavirus. "It's becoming clear this issue is now an ongoing and important part of everyday conversation, and we want to make sure news organizations and creators can continue producing quality videos in a sustainable way," wrote YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki in a blog.

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