By Claire Atkinson. With Netflix on the ropes and an Apple TV set yet to appear, Google struck quickly — if somewhat clumsily — over the weekend in an attempt to create the next generation of TV service. The plan, in which Google’s YouTube will create roughly 100 TV channels by paying a bevy of celebrities, producers and big publishing companies as much as $5 million apiece to create original content, will start to roll out shortly.
The YouTube TV gambit, with a budget of roughly $100 million and aimed at winning a piece of the $3.3 billion Madison Avenue spends on digital video, is also a sly way for Google to circumvent Tinseltown’s refusal to fuel its content ambitions.
YouTube TV partners announced late Friday include Madonna, Ashton Kutcher, Jay-Z, skateboard legend Tony Hawk, plus corporate titans like Hearst, Rodale and Meredith and news organizations such as Reuters and the Wall Street Journal. The aim is to get Madison Avenue the kind of professionally produced content it will pay for, while organizing an ocean of user-generated content that gets posted to YouTube by the hour. Google, openly referred to as “content thieves,” by some studio executives, bragged on its blog that just as ESPN and HBO had revolutionized cable, YouTube is birthing a new generation of channel concepts.
“Many of the defining channels of the next generation are being born, and watched, on YouTube,” wrote Robert Kyncl, an ex-Netflix executive, who runs content partnership for YouTube. One partner said he and others were angry about Google’s decision to make its much anticipated announcement at 10 p.m. on a Friday, leaving few executives available for comment. YouTube will keep 55 percent of the ad revenue their content generates; the partner gets the rest while promising to contribute a set amount of hours and include some amateur content in their service. Madonna and her manager, Guy Oseary, will operate a dance channel called “Dance On,” while musician Pharrell Williams’ channel, “I Am Other,” will champion independent thinkers. Thanks to MartianSky.