Friday, October 28, 2011

YouTube's scattershot channel strategy

Earlier today, the New York Times reported that YouTube will launch more than 100 channels of third-party video programming. YouTube is said to be paying the producers of the new channels, which will begin launching in November and continue throughout 2012, as much as $100 million to create original programming. The producers who have signed on with YouTube range from well-known media brands such as The Wall Street Journal, The Onion, Lionsgate, Reuters, Rodale Press and the WWE, to companies that were entirely unknown until today. Celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher and Deepak Chopra are also involved.

YouTube's plan, which is intended to eventually produce 25 hours of original content each day, is to build the new channels into places where viewers will return day after day, and advertisers will be willing to pay substantially higher rates than they pay for user-generated content. It's a good idea, but YouTube is taking a very scattershot approach to implementing it.

In the past, I've written about YouTube's plans to attract more and better programming. Last December, YouTube gave $1,000 credits to 500 of its YouTube Partners. At the time, I wrote that there's not much useful that a video producer can buy for $1,000 that would make a significant improvement in their productions. YouTube would have been much better off giving $10,000 credits to 50 well-targeted producers.

I feel much the same way about YouTube's new plan. The channels selected are all over the board in terms of content, and are likely to be equally all over the board in terms of quality. Instead of starting with 100 channels, YouTube should have started with 20 or 25, and worked carefully with the producers to insure that the quality of the channels would be high. Then, they could roll out a second wave of channels, perhaps six months down the road. By greenlighting 100 channels at the outset and rolling them out rapidly, YouTube has almost guaranteed that it will end up with a confusing mishmash of shows.

YouTube's intention is to build up a big library of compelling original programming quickly, but they're just as likely to create an assortment of channels carrying junk that would have never been produced had YouTube not committed to pay for it.
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