More importantly to YouTube, 25 of the new channels have more
than 100,000 subscribers. Only 2% of YouTube channels overall ever
reach that number, so the channels YouTube has invested in are
outperforming on that one metric. YouTube has focused on helping
creators build their subscriber counts because those who subscribe
see new episodes in their queue and tend to watch twice as much
content, Mr. Byrne said.
"We think that these channels that we're launching are the next
great media brands," he said. "It's like the early days of cable.
The networks that launched back then have become great media
brands. And we think we're in a very similar time."
We caught up with Mr. Byrne, who will be a speaker at the
Ad Age Digital Conference in San
Francisco this week, and talked to him about the performance of
the original channels.
Advertising Age: Does YouTube still care about
views? Isn't time spent watching a more important metric?
Jamie Byrne: One of the other things we've
changed about YouTube is that we've shifted the focus from being
just about views to being about watch-time. Because we actually do
think that watch-time is a better indicator of viewers being
engaged with the content on YouTube. One thing that we have seen is
that if we go back to January, the amount of watch time on the site
has grown 10 million hours a day. So this change to channels has
helped us and the changes we've made to the site have increased the
amount of time viewers spend watching content.
We talked a little about the success of these 20 or 25 channels
that have crossed these important thresholds. The other thing that
I would say is that these channels that are performing are
targeting different audiences and the content is from a variety of
different categories. So it's not as if our success is focused in
on one narrow place.
Ad Age : Are there any promising new brands
Mr. Byrne: Some of the ones that we look at as
being particularly successful [include] a channel called Drive,
which is an auto channel that in only seven months grew to over
100,000 subscribers, and they had 17 million total views. Drive is
a channel that is targeted at males, a variety of ages, because
it's focused on cars.
There's a channel called YOMYOMF and it is a partnership between
Ryan Higa, KevJumba and Justin Lin. That channel got out to an
amazing start: 400,000 subscribers, 11 million views. And that 's
obviously a little bit younger of an audience. WIGS, which is from
Jon Avnet, is targeting female viewers and has 80,000
The thing that I think is really interesting is that as you go
through these examples, it's really diverse. You have channels
targeting men, channels targeting young adults and channels
targeting women. And they're all seeing success and they're all
building loyal returning viewers.
Ad Age : Are there certain types of content
that fare well?
Mr. Byrne: Something we're seeing, and this
really doesn't happen in television, is the ability to iterate. The
ability to listen to your audience and change your programming. So
Nuevon is a great example. That's a channel targeting the Latino
community. They have a variety of shows and they had one hit where
they had such great success with the first video that they then
turned into a series and it's become a big hit for them.
Ad Age : Are there things that you've learned
Mr. Byrne: I think that the channels are the
best source for some of that knowledge because they're looking at
their programming schedules more closely. It's connected to what we
were talking about, someone might have a show and they have a
presenter or spokesperson for the show that 's not well responded
to by the community, so they'll make that change.
Ad Age : What has surprised you?
Mr. Byrne: One of the things that I think is
interesting is the length of content that viewers are watching. If
you had asked me two years ago how long the content should be for
some of the channels, I probably would have thought that
shorter-form content is the way to go. But we're actually seeing
channels like Vice, they have shows that are 15 minutes, 20
minutes, 30 minutes, and when we look at the watch time for those
shows, the viewers are actually watching them to completion. So one
of the things that we've learned that we think is great is that
viewers on YouTube are willing to watch longer content if it's
We're also seeing that viewership isn't just relegated to the
PC. So we're also seeing great growth in mobile viewership, which
is why it's also really exciting that we have our iOS app out. So
that 's another interesting thing. People are watching longer
content, but they also watch content where its most convenient to
them using the device that 's most convenient to them, whether that
's a computer, a phone, a tablet or a TV.
Ad Age : What is the role of scripted programs
on YouTube and in the "originals" initiative?
Mr. Byrne: There is going to be a wide variety
of programming and we're going to continue to see the evolution of
scripted programming. We'll also see documentary style, reality
One of the great things about H+ and shows like WIGS is that
it's really helping to bring in great creative talent. Whether its
folks behind the camera like Jon Avnet or the stars that you see
showing up in the content, like Jennifer Garner, we think that this
initiative has changed the way that the creative community thinks
about YouTube; it's really changed the way that they think about
digital video. We think that that is great for the viewer. They get
to see content that is amazing quality. And then it's also great
for advertisers because they get to associate their brand with
fantastic quality content and creators that viewers know and
Ad Age : What advice would you give producers
on how to build an audience for a channel?
Mr. Byrne: The first is that a lot of YouTube's
success comes down to authenticity. So as a creator, making content
that is authentic to your subject matter, authentic to your
audience, is probably the most important thing because the viewers
have a high bar. They know when someone's not making content
they're passionate about and they'll react to that .
The second thing is to engage with the community. So once you
have that viewer connecting, whether they're commenting or liking
it, the relationship that the creator builds with that audience
sustains the most success. You see that with the original YouTube
creators. They have really close relationships with their
audiences; they engage with them directly.
The third thing we see that works really well is
cross-promoting. You'll often see this with some of the top
channels on YouTube; they'll work with other channels that are
similar to them and they cross-promote their content. So you'll see
them recommend another channel. You'll see them take a video from
another channel and do some editorial around it. And what that does
is help share subscribers.
And the last thing is just use the tools that we have available.
One is annotation, so you can put notes on the video that you can
click and use that to direct viewers to other videos. We have tools
like our TrueView video product or things like promoted videos,
which our video ads in search results. Those types of things are
great ways to try to build awareness of new content, which we think
will be particularly important in the episodic space where you're
trying to drive awareness.