YouTube Goes Professional

Publish date:

Forget piano-playing cats.

Google’s YouTube — looking to attract more advertising
with professionally produced content — plans to launch some
96 new video channels in the next year featuring original content
from a range of entertainment, sports and news partners.

Content providers You-
Tube has lined up include:
Shaquille O’Neal’s Comedy
Shaq Network, Madonna’s
DanceOn, Ashton Kutcher,
Deepak Chopra’s Chopra Media,
Jay-Z, The Onion, Thomson
Reuters, Slate, Hearst
Magazines, Meredith, Varsity
Pictures and The Wall
Street Journal
, which plans to
launch a lifestyle channel covering
design, fashion, travel,
wine, food and technology.

The first of the new channels
will appear on YouTube
starting this month with rollouts
continuing over the next
year, Google said. The company
is pumping a reported $100
million into the project.

Traditional TV networks
and movie studios are largely
absent from the lineup. World
Wrestling Entertainment is in
the mix with plans to launch
something called “WWE Fan
Nation,” which promises “new,
exclusive, behind-the-scenes
videos that give unheralded
[sic] access to WWE Superstars
and Divas outside the ring.”

Lionsgate has a fitness channel in the works, while animation
producer Frederator Networks is developing “Cartoon
Hangover,” and FremantleMedia has a not-yet-named petsand-
animals channel. Other content providers include Cafe-
Mom, Demand Media, Magical Elves, InStyle magazine, My
Damn Channel, Pitchfork and TED Conferences.

While it’s a cable-like approach, analysts said the YouTube
push won’t threaten the current TV ecosystem — at least, not

“[T]his is Google’s first step toward providing a more robust
platform for professionally produced independent content,
and [we] believe the move positions Google to act as a distributor
in a bid toward capturing incremental ad dollars that are
traditionally directed toward TV,” Barclays Capital analyst Anthony
DiClemente wrote in a research note last week.

Chopra Media will produce at least 20 hours of content for
its YouTube channel in association with Los Angeles-based
Generate. The Chopra Well, scheduled to launch in the summer
of 2012, will present the opportunity to interact differently
with viewers compared with a conventional cable-TV network,
Generate CEO Jordan Levin said.

“The YouTube platform offers the ability to serve video as a
catalyst for a more interactive dialogue. Ideally the community
is as active as we are,” Levin, who was formerly CEO of The
WB, said. “If this was a cable network, you’d imagine it would
have a unidimensional feel.”

Another reason for going the Internet route: It’s extremely
expensive to create and launch a linear TV network, according
to Gotham Chopra, Deepak’s son, who will be actively involved
with The Chopra Well.

“My father is not the type to really build a cable network,”
Gotham Chopra said. “This type of partnership with YouTube
is one of the few out there that makes sense for a person like
this, because you don’t have the handcuffs that come with lots
of strategic planning and massive capital.”

Google positions the YouTube original content play as growing
the universe of video entertainment and news options
available to consumers.

Producer Michael Hirschorn (of Ish Entertainment) and former
Sundance Channel CEO Larry Aidem formed IconicTV, which
will program three channels: Life + Times (with Jay-Z); Latin-focused
Uno Dos Tres; and emerging-artists music outlet myISH.

“What Michael/Ish and I are trying to do with IconicTV
is to break some of the legacy rules we learned in the traditional
media world, while simultaneously bringing a ‘premium
TV’ sensibility to VOD in the over-the-top space,”
Aidem told Multichannel News.

The YouTube channels were announced in an Oct. 28 blog
post byRobert Kyncl, YouTube’s global head of content partnerships,
who was formerly head of digital content acquisition
at Netflix.YouTube — the Internet’s No. 1 video site in terms of
usage, serving 18.6 billion videos in September, according to
comScore — did not offer any video clips showing examples of
the programming that the new channels would carry.

In another prong of Google’s TV strategy, the Internet giant
this month is releasing version 2.0 of its Web-centric TV software,
which among other things has been redesigned to make watching
YouTube content easier and more television-like (see “Google
Tries Again With TV 2.0 Overhaul,” Oct. 31).