Kate Bulkley, Media Analyst.

Is it YouTube’s time now?

By Kate Bulkley

Broadcast News

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For Broadcast October 11, 2012

Adding 60 new channels shows platform is a player, says Kate Bulkley

YouTube arrived on the Croisette in Cannes with a bang this week, announcing upwards of 60 new channels, most of them with European producers. It also hosted an invitation-only beach party as the company’s global head of content Robert Kyncl told a packed auditorium in the Palais de Festivals that “the time is now” to build your audience on YouTube.

Of course, he would say that. YouTube is eager to attract more advertising to the platform, and to do that it needs more and better quality content beyond cat videos and babies biting fingers. It’s a good plan, as far as it goes, but the majority of producers at Mipcom who are starting to swim in the YouTube pool see it as a learning experience; an extension of what they already do rather than the end of TV as we know it. And Kyncl’s message that if you don’t do this, you’re missing the boat was characteristic of a slightly condescending speech that put more value on distribution than content.

That said, Shine Group chief executive Alex Mahon told the audience in the Palais that she only sees the YouTube audience getting bigger and more demanding. “There has been a lot of shorter-form content because that’s what user-generated was. But I imagine we will soon see people watching more and more, for longer and longer periods.”

The new channels come from across the UK, France and Germany and include Fremantle Media, Endemol, Zodiak Media, Hat Trick Productions and BigBalls Films. In the US last year, YouTube reportedly offered $100m in seed capital to producers and content-makers across 100 new channels, to be recouped by Google through ad sales on the channels.

Lion TV is one transatlantic indie making YouTube content on behalf of US publishing giant Hearst.

The model is the same for new channels announced in Cannes. YouTube is perhaps holding the purse strings a bit tighter now, and not always offering full funding, but the cheques can range from $200,000 to $850,000. In the scheme of things, it’s not a lot of money to launch a channel, but this is YouTube and there is a different requirement: shorter, snappier and shareable.

Producers say the way to win a YouTube pitch is to identify a strong ‘vertical’ – like music, gaming or entertainment – and then be able to explain not only the content, but also how you plan to attract viewers to your channel. “These are labour-intensive to run so we are not doing it for the immediate financial gain,” said one producer who won a YouTube channel commission.

Interestingly, for the channels that have already launched, there is a pretty aggressive renewal system. Said one executive overseeing a six-month-old YouTube channel: “YouTube is looking for 100,000 subscribers as a benchmark and a subscriber really is like a ‘like’ on Facebook.”

Clearly, YouTube is a player. Not only is it now serving 4 billion hours of video every month but, according to Kyncl, “hundreds of millions of dollars” are coming in from the likes of Amex, Dell, Gillette, L’Oreal and Emirates. YouTube hopes these new channels will push that needle up even higher and, if it does, then all the players could be winners.

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