April 07, 2011, 11:43 AM — In a bid to attract more advertising and better position its video site for the convergence of the Internet and television, Google has a "major overhaul" of YouTube in the works.
The search giant, which bought the Internet's No. 1 video site in 2006 for $1.65 billion, intends to create 20 unique channels on YouTube and invest $100 million on original programming for the new channels.
The impetus for Google's initiative is to improve its demographics for advertisers, many of whom fail to see the upside of sponsoring user-generated videos of pointless idiocy. This makes it hard for YouTube to compete against the professionally produced videos of pointless idiocy created by broadcasters. (Not that Meatloaf screaming at and threatening Gary Busey on Celebrity Apprentice doesn't make for compelling programming.)
However, if Google's goal is to create "premium" channels so it can charge advertisers more, it's doing it on the cheap.
From the Wall Street Journal:
The site is planning a series of changes to its home page to highlight sets of "channels" around topics such as arts and sports. About 20 or so of those channels will feature several hours of professionally produced original programming a week, (people familiar with the matter) said. Additional channels would be assembled from content already on the site.
It is planning to spend as much as $100 million to commission low-cost content designed exclusively for the Web, people familiar with the matter said.
This reeks of "The AOL Way" -- that is, generating crappy content on the cheap and pretending it's quality. Ask anyone in the television industry how far $100 million is going to get you if your goal is to create "professionally produced original programming." Not very far. I've seen estimates that it costs $3 million to produce an hour of quality content for television. Charlie Sheen was making more than $1 million an episode when he was starring in Two and Half Men. That's why reality shows became popular. It costs a lot less to keep the cameras rolling on Snooki and The Situation getting drunk in a hot tub than it does to make an episode of Seinfeld.
Granted, we're not talking prime-time here, but it's still going to cost money. Google reportedly is looking to Hollywood for production talent. Well, Tinseltown's not going to be offering its services and equipment at "Internet prices."
Then there's "additional channels would be assembled from content already on the site." Well, that bodes well for quality! It's doubtful that Google plans to create YouTube channels from copyrighted material, so I'm guessing it's going to organize around the sorts of videos that go viral. That being the case, I've put together a starter list of channels for Google to run with. The first five are free. After that, I get some of that $100 mil.
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I'm really looking forward to Rebecca Black -- she of "Friday" fame (88 million views and counting) -- hosting her own YouTube talent show. It's going to be huge!