Since its launch in 2005, YouTube has clung tightly to its lead as the number one global site for video. But over the last few years, the amateur viral videos that made it famous have become more novelty and the former king of community-driven content has spent the last couple years trying different programs to up its quality.
How many of you go to YouTube to find something to watch? Very few. You’re more likely to watch a YouTube video through a link or embed on Facebook, Tumblr, or a blog. YouTube has struggled with an age-old question—How to become an entertainment destination?
They may have the answer. YouTube has just announced a major plan to create 100 new premium channels that will roll out in the next few weeks.
The channels will be producing original videos regularly around fashion, sports, music, comedy, and news from celebrities (Jay-Z, Amy Poehler, Ashton Kutcher, Madonna), content producers (Lionsgate, Slate, Reuters, The Wall Street Journal) and media companies like SF-based viral video studio, Seedwell. YouTube is estimating this’ll amount to about 25 hours of new programming every day. Google has invested $100 million in the effort. Many of the studios are getting 6–7 figure advance after which ad revenues are shared.
Cable television expanded our viewing possibilities from just a handful of channels to hundreds, and brought us some of the most defining media experiences of the last few decades– think MTV, ESPN and HBO. Today, the web is bringing us entertainment from an even wider range of talented producers, and many of the defining channels of the next generation are being born, and watched, on YouTube. (YouTube Blog)
The timing of the announcement comes just days after Google announced a much-needed revamp of GoogleTV (gigaom)—the software + service solution that debuted a year ago but failed to live up to its promises.
So will it work?
$100 million can get you a lot of great content online. And their lineup of celebrities and producers is a testament to that. That Google had the cojones to shell out that kind of dough is worth applauding. The possible integration between hardware & service with YouTube and GoogleTV could also be very interesting. But knowing Google’s lack of expertise here and past failures, I wouldn’t hold your breath. I’m also a big believer in brand. And to the world, YouTube is still the place to watch keyboard cats and blenders. That’s an image that’s hard to shift. Perhaps if someone like Vimeo were to step in and try something akin to this, we might have a different story.