INTERNET video site YouTube has stepped up its challenge to traditional TV with the launch of 60 European “channels” showing content from professional production companies.
The business, which is owned by Google, will work with established content producers including the BBC and celebrities such as Jamie Oliver to produce a wide variety of original material, which it hopes will attract more viewers as well as blue chip advertisers.
The group did not say how much it would invest in the new channels, but the announcement yesterday mirrors the firm’s strategy in America, where it ploughed $100 million (£62m) into 100 professionally produced channels launched last year.
YouTube’s head of content Robert Kyncl said the top 25 “original channels” are now averaging more than a million views every week.
The investment has led to a surge in viewing figures, with YouTube’s 800 million viewers now watching four billion hours of online video every month, up from three billion hours earlier this year.
Among the new content being launched in Europe is a BBC nature channel called On Earth and a science show hosted by Top Gear presenter James May.
The Jamie Oliver Food Channel will offer a constant stream of food programmes and recipes, while Guinness World Records will also have a platform.
Channels will also be launched in France and Germany. It has signed up Endemol, the Dutch company behind Big Brother, and FreemantleMedia, an arm of German media giant Bertelsmann responsible for American Idol.
Ben McOwen Wilson, who manages YouTube’s northern European partnerships, said the goal was to let content producers come up with something they couldn’t deliver on TV. “Some of the channels are personality-driven, others are from partners who are totally passionate about a subject,” he said.
The expansion into Europe marks another step in YouTube’s move into the territory normally occupied by traditional media companies. The professional programmes are thought to be more appealing to big-name advertisers, who don’t like the risk of being associated with unpredictable amateur videos.
At the same time, YouTube is trying to lure viewers away from traditional TV and on to the internet.
Any surplus money generated on top of the advances YouTube is offering will be split between Google and the producers.
YouTube already contributes about $3.5 billion to Google’s top line every year, a figure that is expected to climb.
In the US, total revenue from digital video advertising is expected to grow from $2.3bn this year to about $7bn to 2015, when roughly 40 per cent of the population will be watching TV online, according to advertising industry analyst eMarketer.
But the figure is still dwarfed by the $60bn spent on TV advertising in the US every year.
Meanwhile, a recent move by YouTube to change the way it pays content providers, which was seen as favouring longer programmes rather than short amateur clips that “go viral” and get millions of quick views, has reportedly led to some of the small production firms that evolved to produce content for YouTube in its early days defecting for rival platforms.
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