News Corp will join the original online-video programming rush as part of YouTube's "channels" initiative when its video-game website division, IGN Entertainment, launches the START channel on Tuesday. With the rollout, News. Corp and IGN become one of the better-funded of YouTube's channel "partners" in the hope of drawing TV ad dollars to web video.
IGN Entertainment is best known for its video-game site IGN.com. News Corp.paid $650 million for the company in 2006. It acquired rival site UGO.com from Hearst last year and has been looking to spin off both into one company.
Not surprisingly, START will feature gaming-focused shows such as "The Next Game Boss," a reality-show contest for video-game developers and "Up at Noon with Greg Miller," a comedic, "geek culture" talk show. The channel will air the first episodes of these two shows Tuesday and introduce the first episodes of three other new programs in February. Reveille Productions, a division of News Corp's Shine Group and creator of TV hits like "Ugly Betty" and "The Office," is producing the programs.
IGN expects to run 50 hours in total of original programming this year. Episode lengths will average six to 10 minutes. START is getting a big investment from YouTube, which is giving channels from $200,000 to $5 million to cover startup costs, to be repaid over a given period. START is thought to be at the high end of that range; President Roy Bahat declined to comment on the funding.
IGN has already had success with its original YouTube channel, where it distributes videos also shown on its other websites. Many of these short videos are focused on exploring individual games. The channel has 1.7 million subscribers and has had close to 1.5 billion video views since its launch five years ago.So why accept a YouTube investment?
It was an incentive to take a more ambitious leap into original programming than IGN might have otherwise taken, Mr. Bahat said. "We've invested in a certain type of content in the past that we know works really well for the web," he said. "But to invest in longer-form content that feels more like TV with more premium talent -- I don't know that we would take that risk right now on our own."
The fear of missing out was also a factor, said Mr. Bahat, citing "a moment of focus" that YouTube's original-programming investment has produced. "We're hoping that we're jumping in when it all turned."
Mr. Bahat said IGN's sales team will take the lead on selling advertising for the channel, though YouTube's team can sell inventory in cooperation with IGN. Like all YouTube channel partners, IGN must repay YouTube the advance before sharing in ad revenue generated by the channel. A YouTube spokesman said only that over 50% of revenue goes to its partners and that more than 25 of the estimated 100 planned channels have launched.
Other video game-content producers have also proved the demand for their content on YouTube. Machinima's channel, for example, has more than 4 million subscribers.
Activision's "Call of Duty" is START's launch sponsor.