Everybody in the world finds dancing babies funny and adorable puppies, well, adorable. But YouTube wants to make sure that visitors to its site also find unique content that appeals to them expressly and specifically. In surging toward a scenario in which “every interest will, at some point, have a channel serving that interest,” YouTube is ramping up its efforts to get more high-quality content running throughout its site.
Taylor Swift already has a channel, as does the NFL and the Obama for America campaign. These “original channels” feature professional videos centered on the singer, the league, or the election. They receive some funding from YouTube, though several of them also are internally funded or have solicited venture capital. Approximately 100 channels already are up and running, and Netflix, which owns YouTube, promises at least 50 more in the coming year.
The channels are available to viewers for free, though they include advertising. But they clearly have some appeal: The top 25 original channels average approximately 1 million views per week, and viewers have increased the total amount of time they spend watching YouTube content each month by 1 billion hours. In turn, advertisers have increased the amount they spend in the channel by nearly 50 percent, to $2.9 billion.
Even with all these measures of success though, it does not appear as though YouTube original programming is going to supplant traditional television channels anytime soon. Many content producers and advertisers continue to view YouTube as a lower quality option. Although ESPN might have a YouTube channel, that does not mean it is going to stop broadcasting on any of its many television channels.
Furthermore, YouTube is unlikely to convince older watchers to switch off primetime television in favor of their computer. Accordingly, the plans for growing these online original channels focus clearly on young consumers. The popular content often features Internet references and odd comedy—as well as funny babies and cute animals. The quality may be professional, but YouTube knows that ultimately, not much can beat a stalking kitty.
Source: Claire Cain Miller, “YouTube to Serve Niche Tastes by Adding Channels,” The New York Times, October 7, 2012