Tech Talk: YouTube Rethininking Its Original Content Channels, Looks to Diversify

November 14, 2012  |  

Last year, YouTube put more than $100 million into a program that would build up its online “channels” that broadcast original content, an attempt to put online videos in head-to-head competition with television. Now, going into the program’s second year, Google and YouTube won’t renew all of those partnerships.

Google will renew contracts for about 30 percent to 40 percent of their partners, and those that are not renewed can decide to abandon the channel, or, if they want to stay on YouTube, must pay back the original investment before they are allowed to sell their own ads. Advertising Age reported there were 100 original partners that received up to $5 million in an advance against advertising revenue from Google and YouTube and in October, 60 new channels were funded.

While YouTube has not yet announced which channels will make the cut, AdAge’s list of the top 25 original content channels gives an idea of which channels are doing well in terms of views.

AllThingsD spoke to Jamie Byrne, YouTube’s director of content strategy, and reported, “The site is most concerned about engagement—primarily the total ‘watch time’ a channel has generated—and cost—how efficient programmers have been with their programming budget.”

YouTube’s investment in 60 new channels in October included international channels and a focus on a diverse audience, according to the Los Angeles Times. The paper reported that YouTube hopes to diversify its audience by partnering with celebrities including Russell Simmons, Jay-Z, and Queen Latifah to engage black consumers. Issa Rae, the creator of “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl,” has seen success with original content on YouTube, though the second season of her show was funded via a Kickstarter campaign and not this program from YouTube.

“YouTube executives see an opportunity to fund original programming for these audiences, which are underserved by traditional media,” the Times wrote.

As YouTube learns from and evolves its original content strategy, hopefully content from Simmons, Rae, and others in the black community can shine and gain more investment—and engagement—online.

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