YouTube and Google. It’s a marriage made in Internet heaven.
Or, well, at least that’s what the suits behind both entities would love for you — yes, you! — to believe. It’s also why YouTube announced plans this week to move forward with a little less than half the channels it backed about a year ago, when the video streaming service pumped more than $100 million into creating channels with original programming.
Cynics, as you may expect, are shouting words like “oh,” “no,” “I,” “told,” “you” and “so” as they point to the fact that more than 50 percent of the investment proved to be a failure. Apologists, meanwhile, are shouting words like “good,” “job,” “it,” “is,” “a” and “start,” while noting that even though the television industry has yet to be revolutionized, the act of revolt is right around the corner. Jake Coyle from The Associated Press, meanwhile, is simply just shouting …
“When Google announced its plans to fund some 100 new channels of original programming on YouTube, many expected a transformation in television,” Coyle wrote. “Google had disrupted other industries and TV appeared to be next in line. The YouTube channels were trumpeted as the next iteration in television: Just as a handful of networks begat a few hundred cable channels, YouTube would now foster the birth of thousands of channels online. The revolution has not yet been YouTubed.
“Though a year later such a cultural sea change isn’t palpable, YouTube is now doubling down on its investment. It recently expanded into Europe with another 50-plus channels. And now, YouTube is reinvesting in 40 percent of the channels that have already launched. That means more than half of the channels have failed to catch on, yet (the data) is still a rate of success that any network programmer would kill for. But for YouTube, success at this stage is measured less by view counts than by changing perception.”
And exactly how does YouTube plan on changing said perception?
“I feel we’re 300 percent smarter than we were in January,” Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s global head of content and leader of its channels initiative, told Coyle.
Because being 284 percent smarter would just be silly, right?
Anyway, as one may surmise, the first year of the company’s venture into original online programming hasn’t been entirely successful, though it would also be a bit harsh to categorize it as entirely disappointing. The truth is — and much like any other wide-ranging aspect of our lives that holds any amount of notable relevance, mind you — some of it has worked and some of it hasn’t. As for the stuff that has worked, let’s turn our collective heads to Rebecca Greenfield of The Atlantic Wire …
“With YouTube becoming the MTV of the Internet, many of the most viewed channels have something to do with music,” she wrote Monday. “TheWarnerSound, which is Warner Music’s official YouTube channel, streams music videos and is in the top 10 most viewed of all time list. Other popular offerings include: JayZ’s Life and Times, a channel focusing on hip-hop, DanceOn, which has some dance oriented programming, and PitchFork TV ranks in the top 50 as well.”
Boo, Pitchfork, says someone who writes for a website that is not Pitchfork.
Greenfield also pointed out how some news and commentary shows have found success, as has viral video destinations (surprise!) and scripted dramas. As for what hasn’t found any amount of notoriety, she (in an odd and completely dismissive manner) listed sites on how to cook and how to get healthy as those nobody cares about. The lesson: We love our videos of people getting punched in the junk, yet we despise watching people telling us we need to lose 10 pounds.
And to think there are still people who think the human race is flawed!
So, now what? Well, Kyncl said that the decision to move forward with selected programming in addition to throwing more millions of dollars at the venture (while also ominously refusing to disclose exactly how much money he is actually going to throw, keep in mind) is “gear three of a five-gear process.” To keep the car analogy alive, he then referred to Google as a Lamborghini and Yahoo has a Ford Tempo.
OK. That’s a lie.
In any case, the goal here is to change attitude, not accumulate page views, he said, and he’s right. Case in point: 52 million people turned to the World Wide Internet to check out Felix Baumgartner’s jump from outer space into the desert. The number for traditional television? 7.6 million tuned into The Discovery Channel. The idea was to get more people to trust in an Internet connection as a source for the television experience, not land 34,932 Likes on Facebook. Think about it: Even if only half of those 52 million viewers learned a thing or two about Web TV on that Sunday morning, the broadcast was a success.
“If the requirement for showing progress for Google is that they’ve disrupted television, then they haven’t met that condition,” Forrester analyst James McQuivey told Coyle for his article that’s not linked because you can practically find it anywhere. “They haven’t really changed the way people watch TV. That said, to have expected to do that in a year would have been kind of crazy.”
Indeed. This is something that’s going to take many more millions of dollars and many more moments of failure before any true form of revolution begins to take hold of the television industry. The most important development from all this news comes less in the fact that half the channels YouTube and Google invested in last year aren’t coming back and more in the notion that the companies are still willing to throw more money at the movement’s future. It’s going to take that kind of commitment to be successful at changing popular culture’s perception and approach when it comes to TV-watching habits, and it’s encouraging to see two heavyweights so willing to believe in this particular niche.
Money and time. That’s all it takes to build anything sustainable. YouTube has the money. All it has to do now is wait to accumulate enough time to establish itself as a major player in the television world.