Upfronts 2012: YouTube Announces New Channels

Robert Kyncl

Wednesday's presentation includes new series featuring stars like Virginia Madsen, Jennifer Garner and Julia Stiles as well as the results of a study titled "Generation V," about the video-watching and -sharing habits of young adults.

YouTube has announced the launch of three new channels devoted to original content about the lives of women, a spotlight on U.S. Olympians and one that comes from the organizers of the Tribeca Film Festival.

The announcements came ahead of YouTube's participation in Digital Newfronts, a new two-week event where big online giants hold TV industry-style pitches to ad buyers. YouTube's event, which it is calling "Brandcast," is being held at the Beacon Theater in New York City and will feature the company's top content and sales executives as well as performances by Jay-Z, Pharrell Williams, Flo Rida, and the Neon Trees.

YouTube, which counts more than 800 million visitors watching 3 billion hours of video per month, is extending the channels initiative it introduced last autumn. On top of the some 50 niche channels the company has already launched on its platform, the video hub is rolling out at least three new channels, saying that by the end of July, there will be 25 hours of new original content on the website. The company also announced at the Brandcast that it would be spending $200 million to promote the channels.

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One of those channels is called "WIGS," from filmmakers Jon Avnet (Black Swan, Fried Green Tomatoes, Risky Business) and Rodrigo Garcia (Albert Nobbs, In Treatment, Mother and Child), and will show series, documentaries, behind-the-scenes videos and other unscripted content about the lives of women.

The channel is already programmed with three series that will feature such stars as Virginia Madsen, Stephen Moyer, Caitlin Gerard, Jennifer Garner, Alfred Molina and Julia Stiles. Other series are also said to be coming that will star Jennifer Beals, America Ferrera, Dakota Fanning, Michael C. Hall and Alison Janney.

In conjunction with the U.S. Olympic Committee, and sponsored by AT&T, YouTube is also rolling out the "Team USA" channel, which will feature past and present Olympians, instruction from Olympic sport coaches, and historical Olympic Games footage.

Later this year, YouTube will also roll out "The Picture Show" channel from Tribeca Enterprises, producers of the annual Tribeca Film Festival and Maker Studios.

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The presentation Wednesday is not only about touting new content, including a new-live action series entitled Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn on the Machinima channel, but also about hyping the growth of the online video sector in an attempt to win the hearts, minds and pocketbooks of ad buyers.

YouTube says it has commissioned a study, "Generation V," and is beginning to share results of the findings. According to the study, men aged 18-34 are now spending more time streaming video than watching live TV, one third visit YouTube multiple times a day, half subscribe to a YouTube channel and two thirds shared YouTube videos in the past week. The numbers are slightly less for women aged 25-49, where it's reported that 40 percent subscribe to YouTube channels. But the company targets their specific sharing habits, saying that a third of these women regularly share online video with their kids or parents.

"“If you take a look at the phase we’re in now, it sure looks to me like we’re about to see another large explosion in the use of video," says Google CEO Eric Schmidt in a conference call today to discuss the news. "The growth rate is accelerating, the traffic is accelerating, the content is accelerating.  And I think it’s because it solves new problems: people are finding themselves using video in everything.  It’s changing our communities, it’s changing the way we live.”

At the Beacon Theater presentation, Robert Kyncl, vice president, global head of content for YouTube, added that going by viewership numbers, YouTube's top five channels would rate in the top ten channels on TV.