YouTube Doubles Down on Channel Initiative AKA Rebranding

November 16, 2012

youtube, youtube channels, video

A year ago, YouTube made an aggressive push into original programming with a $100 million initiative to launch new channels — followed by a $200 million plan to advertise them. 

So how is it all playing out?

Well the answer depends on your perception.  Earlier this week, Google announced that it will be cutting funding to 60% of those 100 new channels but will be increasing funding to the other 40%.  Those channels that are losing funding won’t necessarily be cut from YouTube, they will just have to exist going forward on their own dime.  You can either look at this as a reinvestment in the 40% or a cutting of funds in the 60%.

A positive trend (and a major goal of YouTube’s with the launch of this programming) is the increase in engagement on their original channels.  

According to an article in the Seattle Times, “YouTube users spent an average of 419.1 minutes watching video in September, compared to 378 minutes in Sept. 2011.”

YouTube is no longer as concerned with how many views a particular cat video gets but rather how long a user stays on a particular channel.  Longer engagement = more time spent on a channel = more advertising dollars.

Another way of looking at Youtube’s continuous push into original content?  In some ways, it’s a rebranding experiment.  With YouTube doubling down on programming, they are showing their determination to be perceived no longer as a place to watch cat videos but rather as a place where you get watch good, quality content.

Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s head of channel programming, explains why this investment is so important.

“What we're trying to do is galvanize the creative and advertising community.  And we're succeeding at that."

Instead of focusing on the fact they have cut funding to the struggling channels, YouTube would rather have you notice their top 20 channels get more than one million views per week with more than 100,000 subscribers on each. 

When it comes to pitching entertainment/news outlets on why they should be focusing on YouTube as part of their strategy, global head of content strategy Jamie Byrne makes a compelling argument.

"Our pitch to talent essentially is, 'Here's where the world is going, do you want to be a part of it?'" 

To further illustrate this funded initiative, YouTube has even changed their interface to emphasize tools like playlists, subscribe buttons, and channel visibility.  Again, the goal here is to drive more engagement in this all-encompassing mission to alter a user’s idea of what YouTube is.

Shishir Mehrotra, director of product management, explains the overall rebranding goal.

"Up until now, the primary noun on YouTube has been video. You watch a video, you share a video, a video has view counts and so on.  We're gradually shifting the site so the primary noun on the site is the channel, and you tune into the channels that you care about."

Will YouTube be successful in this rebranding mission?  With what seems to be an infinite amount of funds and a undeterred goal to change, they’re sure as hell going to try.