By Sahil Patel
The television industry has had an uneasy relationship with YouTube since the video site was created by Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim in February of 2006. (And that’s putting it nicely.)
Most of this is because television trades on the idea of scarcity as a commodity. If networks had their way, the digital video revolution would never have happened, and audiences would continue to be marketed on the idea that they HAD to watch something at a certain time if they wanted to know what happened. This would create audience demand and in turn drive higher ad rates.
YouTube — like I need to tell you — is about ubiquity. Which directly goes against what networks know, enjoy, and feel comfortable with.
So maybe it makes sense, then, that most networks’ approach to YouTube today is half-hearted at best.* “Cable and broadcast television networks all have real estate within YouTube,” says David Puner, senior editor of social & content at DigitasLBi. “But unfortunately, for the most part, their overall creative investment in the network seems half-hearted, as there is very little-to-no content specifically produced for YouTube itself. In addition, you’re often relegated to watching a 10–30 second pre-roll in order to get to a one-and-a-half minute teaser video — that’s not a great user experience.”
In other words, networks are on YouTube because they recognize that that’s where a majority of their audience is when they’re online. But that doesn’t mean they have to put too much effort into their YouTube — especially when the site will only ever be responsible for an incredibly small portion of their revenue.
“It would be great to see more YouTube-exclusive content produced by networks,” says Puner. “More content that’s short and increasingly interactive would really up their game.”
But in many cases, that still feels like wishful thinking — unless we look at networks that own digital properties not directly tied to television. “There’s also an opportunity for TV networks to have channels that aren’t related to their programs at all,” says Puner. “CBS, for example, has CNET and GameSpot channels under its YouTube umbrella. Those channels by far and away have larger subscriber numbers than any other CBS show or divisions like news and sports. These two channels are inherently digital and feature the kind of content (actionable reviews and insights) that serves as the backbone for valuable YouTube content (along with the kitties and waterskiing squirrels, of course).”
It’s here, maybe, when it doesn’t impact their television business, that we truly see the television industry embracing YouTube the way independent creators have since 2006.
Here are the top five emerging YouTube channels from TV networks. With the TV upfront season underway, it’s a good time for buyers to see how they can amplify the TV campaigns they’re already looking to buy, and an equally good time for sellers to pitch how their content resonates across screens and platforms.
- SlateScore: 250
- Total Subs: 1,187
- Monthly Views: 63,150
4. History LA
- SlateScore: 304
- Total Subs: 3,924
- Monthly Views: 168,780
3. USA Network
- SlateScore: 438
- Total Subs: 4,465
- Monthly Views: 28,590
- SlateScore: 474
- Total Subs: 21,017
- Monthly Views: 785,430
- SlateScore: 510
- Total Subs: 15,670
- Monthly Views: 620,250
Emerging channels data is provided by DigiasLBi and Outrigger Media and is based on data from the Emerging Talent Tracker in OpenSlate, a YouTube analytics platform created by Outrigger Media. Data for the top emerging TV-network channels is up to date as of March 26, 2014.