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February 21, 2012

YouTube Rolls out Quality Content in New Channels

By Chris Freeburn, Web Editor

Looking to draw more viewers, YouTube (News - Alert) is partnering with leading television producers and studios to develop unique content. According to the Associated Press, the Google (News - Alert)-owned video clip mega-website is recruiting talent to produce roughly 25 hours of daily programming to be streamed on 96 YouTube user channels. YouTube announced last fall that it had set aside $100 million in “seed money” to create quality programming of its own.

The new content is a departure from YouTube’s standard fare of user captured and uploaded homemade video clips and features marquis name personalities (including Deepak Chopra and Madonna) and professional behind-the-scenes talent. With money to spend, YouTube hopes the professionally produced content will boost advertising dollars by drawing more viewers.

The AP notes that some well-known producers have already signed on to the effort, including Justin Lin, director of street racing film, “Fast Five,” former president of CBS Entertainment Nancy Tellem and the man who brought the long-running CSI franchise to TV, Anthony Zuiker. Though the financing YouTube is offering is small compared to a traditional TV network, where primetime scripted shows can cost millions of dollars per episode, the producers attracted to YouTube hope to benefit from the creative freedom from network and FCC (News - Alert) restrictions.

"We want to jointly take the risk with YouTube and roll the dice on the future," Zuiker told the AP. "The old regime is going to falter because everybody thinks the TV is the only device that really counts, and that's just not the case." The AP notes that Zuiker joined the effort after observing his own teenaged children spending more time on their phones and tablets than with a conventional television set.

YouTube’s commitment to content development is rooted in the shifting demographics of media consumption. Television viewership has stalled as younger viewers increasingly consume video content on mobile devices, the AP notes. This transition has caught the attention of advertisers, always seeking access to younger consumers. Content distribution channels, like YouTube want to cash in on a potential advertising dollar bonanza if they can consistently deliver high numbers of such viewers to their advertisers.

With more and more people being connected, the economics are improving, so it makes sense that storytellers of all kinds would want to come to us,” Robert Kyncl, global head of content at YouTube told USA Today in January. “The more connected devices we get, the more this system will open up.”

As YouTube launches its new channels – all 96 are expected to be streaming by summer – other video streaming services are jumping into the content creation business. NetFlix, recovering from last year’s subscriber stumbles, debuted its self-produced series “Lillyhammer” in February and Hulu (News - Alert) is testing a “dramedy” series of its own, “Battleground.”

Smaller content producers will also benefit from YouTube’s investment. Maker Studios, which produces roughly 300 video clips per month for about $1,000 a clip, will launch three new channels with funds from YouTube, according to the AP. The seed money has transformed the upstart studio into a burgeoning enterprise with 160 full-time staff. While its videos may be inexpensive, the AP notes that Maker Studios’ has drawn more than 500 million viewers with popular viral videos like “Epic Rap Battles of History." Those numbers excite advertisers and YouTube clearly hopes they will generate enough ad revenue to recoup its investment.

Adweek reports that the new channels are debuting to mixed results. Channels featuring content from longstanding YouTube contributors like Maker Studios, Young Hollywood and Vlogbrother’s SciShow, have signed up tens of thousands of subscribers and received millions of views in just a few months. However, other channels, including those from Reuters (News - Alert), Slate, The Intelligent Channel and pop icon Madonna have yet to catch fire, suggesting that those producers with YouTube experience are adapting their content more quickly than newcomers to the site.

Chris Freeburn is a Web Editor for TMCnet.

Edited by Chris Freeburn
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