YouTube sees itself “very much as a platform” and believes that “online video will push the range of channels to the thousands or even millions,” according to Ben McOwen Wilson, UK content partnerships director at the Google-owned online video site.
Speaking at an RTS evening event, ‘Analogue Pennies, Digital Pounds’ at Google’s offices in London yesterday, McOwen Wilson also said that YouTube would possibly look to develop a subscription offering but only if it offers something distinctive.
McOwen Wilson said that YouTube was prepared to bear some of the financial risk to see channels proliferate on the platform. YouTube recently launched its channel partner programme in Europe and announced 60 European channel partners at the MIPCOM programming market in Cannes in October.
“We have been pushing to get more and more original content on the platform,” said McOwen Wilson. “The great thing about web video and YouTube is you can reach a global audience at a much lower cost than has been true hitherto.”
He highlighted the global reach of existing YouTube channel partner Machinima, whose gaming-focused content he said attracted 1.5 billion views a month, and fashion and beauty channel StyleHaul. With its more recent financial involvement in channels, YouTube, said McOwen Wilson, was aiming to push the development of channels quickly to appeal to a wider audience. “We deliberately invested in a much wider range of content,” he said. “We want to be the platform that sees all of these channels emerge.”
Addressing the question of whether YouTube would embrace business models beyond advertising, McOwen Wilson said that YouTube already offered some content on a rental basis, including, for example, the Twilight movie series. He said that YouTube also offered content identification-based services to US studios, not only enabling them to take down content that was posted illegally but to track viewership of their content online to enable them to monetise that demand.
“We are also looking at other models like subscription,” he said, but added that this would depend on being able to offer something distinctive. “Would Google support a ‘me too’ project? No. We would have to bring a different form of value to consumers and content partners,” he said.
McOwen Wilson said that social networking would become increasingly important as a means of attracting a viewership to video content. He said that about half of YouTube views now came from people sharing content with friends and contacts.
McOwen Wilson told Digital TV Europe that YouTube was looking to develop new advertising propositions on the model of its TrueView video ad system, where viewers are given the choice of which ads to view and advertisers are only charged when viewers choose their ads. “A certain proportion of advertising is sold as reservable pre-rolls but we are also seeking to innovate in terms of formats,” said McOwen Wilson. “We found TrueView to be effective for advertisers because they now only pay for views. It’s great for consumers because they can choose, and it’s great for content creators because the [revenue] that a content creator takes from a TrueView ad is higher than for a reservable pre-roll. Advertisers are paying for a particular audience or content type.”
Speaking at the same event, Justin Gaynor, founder of online producer Channel Flip, expressed a more skeptical view of the immediate viability of online as a principal distribution channel for content providers. He said that currently online channels could typically command advertising rates of £15 (€19) per thousand views for pre-roll advertising and rates of between £30-50 where the content was branded by the advertiser. He said it was still extremely difficult to make a business from creating video content online and advised content creators to look to a wider range of video distribution opportunities, including apps for smartphones and tablets, as well as looking to YouTube exclusively.
Nick Cohen, managing partner and UK head of media buying agency MediaCom, on the other hand, said that independent producers would be in a strong position to benefit from online opportunities. “Indies own franchises and programme brands. They are in quite a strong position in some areas,” he said.