I love YouTube.
Fine, I confessed. Does that make me a biased journalist? If so, I don’t care. Some days, I just leave a YouTube window open all day and search for clips from Broadway musicals, being a musical theater phile. (So, as a public service announcement, if you ever want to get on my good side, send me Youtube clips of musicals or musical spoofs. Seriously. I LOVE that stuff.)
That being said, I don’t entirely GET this new channels initiative. Sure, the basics are YouTube is pouring $100 million into 100 new channels as part of its push into upping the quality of the programming available on the world’s most popular video site.
In a lot of ways, YouTube is following the example set in the cable business by offering targeted channels. Similarly, the new content effort centers on curated topic-centric channels, many of which will be programmed and developed by celebrities, including Madonna, Jay-Z, Amy Poehler and Tony Hawk. Beyond the stars, the video site inked deals with some of the premiere Web content producers such as My Damn Channel, which is producing a live 30-minute weekly comedy series for YouTube; EQAL, the studio that counts Kraft’s Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Walgreen’s as its brand partners; and reality and game show producers, Fremantle.
So I’m cool with the whole “we’re like early cable” comparison. But at the same time, all of these stars and nearly all of these producers are already on YouTube. EQAL’s projects helped grow YouTube in the early days, while My Damn Channel is also a YouTube veteran. Sure, they’ll be making new stuff, and with the celebrity touch, there may be a whole massive influx of ad dollars and views into YouTube.
But I’m not yet convinced that this new initiative was necessary, or that it will bring a certain it factor to the site. (YouTube already has an it factor.) Perhaps the content infusion will drive more interest in Google TV and make the over-the-top play a bigger competitor long term. “While we do not believe this is an immediate threat to studios, content providers or distributors just yet, we do believe this is Google’s first step toward providing a more robust platform for professionally produced independent content, and 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 said in a report.