The image of YouTube as the go-to place to watch home brew video clips of cute kittens and smiling babies is fading fast, especially as the company continues to ramp up its efforts to compete with broadcasters for audiences by funding the development of original, high quality content for its web channels.
Nothing reflects this more than YouTube Spaces, which are rapidly cropping up across the globe to provide studio space, expertise, workshops, events, screenings, creative collaboration, and state-of-the-art production and post-production resources for creators, which is YouTube’s name for people who are involved in its Partners Program.
The good news for creators is that the use of the various resources at YouTube Spaces is not only free, but creators also get to retain ownership of the content they produce, which they can then license to YouTube for display on its channels. Some revenue sharing is involved as well. The bad news is that, although not impossible, it does take some web production chops to become an official YouTube creator.
The first YouTube Space opened in London in July 2012, LA followed in November 2012, Tokyo in February 2013, and NYC is reported to be coming soon. Most expect France and Germany will follow quickly on the heels of NYC, since both countries have recently been awarded YouTube channel spots through the YouTube Original Channels Initiative.
“Formerly the home of the Howard Hughes airport, the YouTube Space LA is located in the Playa Vista area and totals nearly 41,000 square feet. The Space consists of many large production stages, a backlot equipment room with cameras, lights, mics and grip equipment available for checkout, and post-production resources ranging from private editing suites to voice over recording booths. (www.youtube.com)
YouTube’s Next Lab is the sponsor of the Spaces initiative. It’s goal is to facilitate the growth of promising creators and accelerate the development of high quality original content for YouTube channels.
Next Lab also oversees the NextUp development program, which selects high potential creators and provides them with mentoring and training, equipment, cash prizes, and content promotion on the web. Since it began in 2011, the NextUp program has helped over 215 YouTube creators from 15 different countries.
Spaces and NextUp are not the only costly forays Google has made into original content development. In the fall of 2011, the company also committed $100m in seed money to fund the creation of content by traditional Hollywood producers and directors, 40% of which was picked up for a second year.
Clearly, Google is very serious about fostering the development of high quality content and production talent for its YouTube channels.
John Letzing explains Google’s commitment to continued investment in original programming. He writes (Marketwatch, 2/16/12) that the company is,
“… spending more time and money on the creators of YouTube videos, in a bid to draw more interest from big-spending advertisers with a better-looking product …
Google’s display advertising business, which includes YouTube, is generating more than $5 billion in annual revenue, the company says. The site boasts a significant audience; Google sites primarily consisting of YouTube drew nearly 182 million viewers in December, according to comScore, compared with about 53 million for Yahoo Inc.’s sites and 31 million for Hulu.
By investing more in YouTube’s production quality, Google hopes to wring more advertising revenue from that large audience, according to Rebecca Lieb, an analyst with Altimeter Group. “You can charge higher prices for ads on premium products,” Lieb said.”
One wonders what the actual YouTube creators think of all this?
Hikosaemon is one of the creators who was invited to the opening of the Tokyo YouTube Space earlier this month. He was born in New Zealand but lives in Japan and is an experienced developer of web content. He was one of the original creators accepted into YouTube’s Partners Program and offers some interesting commentary on the Tokyo Space,
“The primary focus of the YouTube Space appeared to my eyes to be as a stepping stone more for traditional broadcast media to transition over onto YouTube than for current YouTube creators to step up, although there is the potential for that kind of use also …
It wasn’t new media taking over, so much as old media being hand-held into new media. Here I was with dreams of user creator hordes stampeding over traditional media via YouTube, and here is YouTube instead offering the dinosaurs wheelchairs and a red carpet to get the best spots on YouTube instead. Reality started to hit a little hard, and I admit I felt some disappointment …
I began to look at the YouTube Space as a way for more traditional professional creators, and commercial interests to look at getting up alongside commercial broadcasting on their own terms, and to bring the talent that exists in that space between being squeezed out of regular TV and unfamiliar with the web, onto the side of YouTube …
I would love to see the Space be a serious production studio that gets these kinds of creators seen and recognized, and I think it is commercially smart for YouTube to invest in this as a strategy. Ultimately, more users on YouTube, more engaged for longer means more potential for standout original content to also get clicked on, watched and appreciated by new users.”
Google is looking more like a traditional broadcaster with every passing day. As it competes with Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and a slew of other web companies against cable operators like HBO, one only hopes, for the sake of the viewing audience, that the holy grail of quality programming will actually start to appear and become more widely available to viewers wherever it is they may be tuning in.