No wonder marketers don't know what to make of YouTube. It hosts both a dedicated New York Times channel with more than 54 million video views, and a Wall Street Journal channel with more than 37,000 subscribers, plus, 1,000 videos based the search "ugliest zit." Is it an advertising platform, a journalism outlet, or a fun-house? All of those, apparently. Parent company Google has announced 60 more original channels, backed by a $200-million investment by YouTube. As AdAge reports, the next round is focused upon foreign TV formats and properties (e.g., from the BBC), but also includes channels from current partners like Vice and Everyday Health. YouTube will not filter its amateur publisher content, but professional publishers are climbing aboard.
YouTube now claims that its top 25 original channels average over a million views per week, and that 800 million viewers watch 4 billion hours every month, up from 3 billion hours earlier in 2012. Also true, the number of people subscribing to YouTube channels has doubled since 2011, and YouTube partners this year are reaching the 100k subscriber mark five times faster than they did in 2011.
As The New York Times describes, YouTube is striving toward legitimacy: YouTube’s strategy, begun a year ago, is to entice television viewers and advertisers with high-quality video that caters to niche interests, and the new channels will feature local cuisine, health and wellness and parenting, along with sports, music, comedy, animation and news.
These channels, YouTube claims, are backed by some of the biggest producers, well-known celebrities and emerging media companies from Europe and the US.
BBC Worldwide will launch two of those channels, one showcasing natural history films created by the commercially funded BBC Earth Productions, the other a topical science channel, produced in partnership with 360 Productions. Lest they be deemed stuffy, BBC Worldwide will also launch a selection of long-form programming in the UK and Canada including episodes of its "EastEnders" soap opera (the most popular TV show you've never heard of) and its classic comedy "The Likely Lads," plus a selection from the BBC's Shakespeare Collection and dramas like "Campion" (an updated British "Columbo"). A third leg of the deal involves the BBC updating its existing selection of 8,000+ clips across its 6 channels with 1.7 million subscribers.
The real test, AdAge sagely surmises, is whether or not the channels lead to any incremental new advertising for YouTube, and "the jury is out." The DanceOn channel (backed by Madonna, see graphic) has just signed its first major sponsor (Ubisoft) after launching in Q2 2012. "But YouTube's originals still include a lot of house ads for YouTube," suggesting that YouTube struggles to convince national advertisers of its value.
That said, CollegeHumor (a YouTube channel with nearly 1.5 million subscribers) has attracted advertisers like Viacom, with a pre-roll ad for its "Teenaged Mutant Ninja Turtles" product. And Serta's iComfort brand turns up in intrusive banner ads over a New York Times channel story about women activists tortured in Egypt.
The jury is indeed out.