YouTube's $100 million experiment in original content won't start to bear fruit until early next year, but a couple of newly commissioned "channels" are getting off the ground early, including women-focused "Kin," from Deca, the company that operates websites like Momversation.com and CoolMom.com.
The channel, which went live Monday night, include four web series, or what Deca is calling "sub-channels," Kin Eats, Kin Style, Kin Parents and Kin Stories. Deca is planning to refresh the channel with at least 13 new episodes a week, all about one to three minutes long.
The shows are a definite step up in production values and quality from standard YouTube fare, though much shorter and still very bare-bones compared to TV content. The idea here is to keep programming costs economic for web video, yet good enough to appeal to brand advertisers, and that means spending in the low single-digit thousands per episode.
"We are spending more than we would usually spend and very happy to be in partnership with YouTube so we can do that ," said Deca CEO Michael Wayne. "We're not creating television or sitcoms or dramas; we definitely feel we are remaining true to the internet as a platform even though the quality is better than what we've done in the past."
By kicking in startup funds, YouTube is asking video producers to reach for a new level of production values, in hopes that a new level of ad dollars will follow. The model YouTube has forged is atypical for media: Producers get startup funds anywhere from a few hundred thousand to several million, depending on the genre and their production needs. YouTube gets exclusive rights to sell the content for a given period of time.
Producers share ad revenue once they've earned back the initial investment. YouTube never takes ownership in the content. Indeed, once the deal expires, rights revert back to the creator. YouTube isn't in it to become a library of content; rather, it wants to create a market for content tailored for a post-cable TV world of tens of thousands of niche networks with both linear and nonlinear programming.
Deca had been in talks with YouTube for more than a year. The show concepts that make up the "Kin" channel were a few of 11 different ideas pitched as separate networks, but YouTube wanted four wrapped together as a single channel. Because Deca got the news from YouTube in August, they were able to get a head start on producing content for the pipeline.
"Kin" is part of a trickle of networks just coming online, and all benefiting from YouTube's more consumer-friendly redesign, which rolled out broadly last week. Maker Studios has two networks up and running, Spanish language Tutele and The Mom's View. Another Spanish language entertainment network ClevverTeVe has launched, along with a network about numbers --yes, numbers -- called Numberphile. All were part of the 96-odd networks YouTube announced as coming last month.
These are shows organized around a theme designed to build a following -- and a brand. If this treads on anyone's territory, it's probably closest to blip.tv, the New York City-based network known for high-quality web series by mostly indie producers.
As channels roll out, you get a sense of where YouTube saw the need to boost content offerings. YouTube focused heavily on lifestyle content for women, an advertiser-friendly genre that didn't have much visibility on YouTube as male-skewing networks like, say, Machinima. Deca wants to push the standard mommy-blogger fare forward.
"A lot of sites become more 'mommy'-centric and forget there's a woman behind the mom," said Deca programming head Beth Le Manach.