Riding high on some strong user data, YouTube said Sunday it is expanding its ambitious “Original Channels” initiative. Launched last year, Google originally earmarked $150 million to
foster dozens of original programs. (More recently, the company said it was putting another $200 million into the project, and was nearing 100 channels.)
Following a site-wide makeover, the move was positioned as an effort to redefine YouTube as a hub for higher-quality, brand-safe content. The strategy appears to be working. YouTube’s top 25 original channels are now averaging over 1 million views per week, said Robert Kyncl, vice president/global head of content at Google.
A whopping 800 million viewers are now watching 4 billion hours, every month -- up from 3 billion hours earlier this year. The number of users subscribing to YouTube’s channels has doubled year-over-year, while channel partners are now reaching their first 100,000 subscribers five-times faster than they were two years ago.
Sensing a winning strategy, Kyncl said YouTube now plans to launch “a new generation of original channels coming from France, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S.”
“From local cuisine, health and wellness and parenting to sports, music, comedy, animation and news, this new lineup of original channels will have something for everyone,” explained Kyncl. “They are backed by some of the biggest producers, well-known celebrities and emerging media companies from Europe and the U.S.”
Among a list of about 60 publishers, new channels partners include The Wall Street Journal, Red Bull, The Onion, Vice, The Jamie Oliver Food Channel and ESPN’s "Grantland."
How much more money Google plans to invest -- and how many channels it ultimately plans to launch -- Kyncl didn’t say on Sunday.
Yet Suzie Reider, head of industry development at YouTube, addressed the company’s broader ambitions at OMMA Global, last week. Regarding the larger media landscape, Reider said: “We are headed toward a world of 600,000 channels.”
But how big can these niche audiences be? Due to continued industry-wide audience fragmentation, niche online audiences are slowly approaching the audience size of top TV programming, Reider said.