The channel within YouTube will be optimized for viewing on TV and is clearly intended as a competitor to Hulu, which has been accumulating users quickly and has a vast TV library from NBC Universal, News Corp., and soon, Walt Disney Co.
YouTube is also adding shows and subscription tabs to its home page to more quickly direct users past the hoi polloi of user-generated video to professional content.
With the redesign comes some new content from mostly existing partners. YouTube did get a new deal with Sony Pictures and Sony's video site Crackle, as well as Endemol, Anime Network, Scott Entertainment and some other niche producers. The company got expanded content from existing partners such as CBS, MGM and Lionsgate, but YouTube's library is dominated by musty library shows the networks aren't selling anywhere else, such as "Charlie's Angels," "90210" and "MacGyver." The only full-length show on YouTube currently on TV is CBS's "Harpers Island."
In all, a YouTube spokesman said, content will increase from a few dozen movies to hundreds, and from a few hundred TV shows to thousands.
Key selling point
The video channel comes on the heels of YouTube's announcement with Universal Music Group to create a site for music videos, Vevo. But unlike Vevo, the site will be owned and hosted by YouTube at YouTube.com/shows.
Unlike Hulu, YouTube will accommodate partners' own video players, a key selling point for content partners that want to keep tighter control over their video. That YouTube has had such trouble landing TV and film is an indication of how much mistrust remains among the studios. None of its content deals are exclusive.
YouTube will start selling TV-like ad spots within the shows, which it has been testing since October, or allow their partners to bring their own ads into the service. In addition to video ads, YouTube will also sell its own array of display ads and overlays as well as the text ads it is well known for.
Focus on advertising
The intent is to create a lean-back video experience for users who want to watch a mix of user-generated video, film and TV. Shiva Rajaraman, YouTube senior product manager, said the prime time of the future is user-programmed and will consist of all manner of TV, movies, music videos and all types of user-generated video.
In Google's earnings call, CEO Eric Schmidt indicated that YouTube was making good progress with small and medium-size studios and that YouTube would also look beyond advertising for revenue. "We do expect over time to see micropayments and other forms as well, but our initial focus is on advertising," he said.