YouTube's channels not must-see TV - yet
BY JAKE COYLE Associated Press
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
11/13/12 at 6:31 AM
NEW YORK - When Google announced its plans to fund some 100 new channels of original programming on YouTube, many expected a transformation in television.
Google had disrupted other industries and TV appeared to be next in line. The YouTube channels were trumpeted as the next iteration in television: Just as a handful of networks begat a few hundred cable channels, YouTube would now foster the birth of thousands of channels online.
The revolution has not yet been YouTubed.
Though a year later such a cultural sea change isn't palpable - and likely shouldn't be expected so soon - YouTube's developing platform of original programming is gradually taking shape, building steadily into an enormous, global video ecosystem wherein the tools to produce a mini TV station are anyone's.
YouTube is now doubling down on its investment. It recently expanded into Europe with another 50-plus channels. And now, YouTube is reinvesting in 40 percent of the channels that have already launched. That means more than half of the channels have failed to catch on, yet is still a rate of success that any network programmer would kill for.
But for YouTube, success at this stage is measured less by view counts than by changing perception.
"What we're trying to do is galvanize the creative and advertising community," Robert Kyncl, YouTube's global head of content and the leader of its channels initiative.
Since it was founded in 2005, YouTube has been predominately the home of user-created video. But by putting out a welcome mat to Hollywood, the site is trying to lure viewers to stay for longer and coax advertisers to pair their brands with known talent.
YouTube has declined to make public the size of its investment. The initial channel launch was reportedly fueled by $100 million, a number YouTube executives dispute. Kyncl will go no further than to confirm the $200 million he pledged to spend marketing the channels at YouTube's TV-style upfront presentation to advertisers in May.
Jamie Byrne, director of content strategy, said the second round of funding would be relatively similar to the amount of the first round, on a per channel basis.
A simple glance at the site reveals how central the channels initiative is to YouTube. The fabric of the video behemoth has been reoriented to emphasize a user's playlist of channels, a move that has increased channel subscribers by 50 percent, executives say. It may sound like a small tweak, but behind it is the mission to alter the very nature of YouTube.
"Up until now, the primary noun on YouTube has been video. You watch a video, you share a video, a video has view counts and so on," Shishir Mehrotra, director of product management at YouTube, said. "We're gradually shifting the site so the primary noun on the site is the channel, and you tune into the channels that you care about."
Original Print Headline: YouTube still finding its way in TV
Felix Baumgartner prepares to jump during the first manned test flight for Red Bull Stratos over Roswell, N.M., on March 15. Some 52 million watched YouTube's live stream of daredevil Baumgartner's free-fall jump from space, outpacing the 7.6 million who watched it on the Discovery Channel. JAY NEMETH / Associated Press