Debate about the threat YouTube poses to TV broadcasters has returned, after the rise of Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and other online services touting “quality” programming dampened the hype surrounding the user-generated content portal some years ago. YouTube’s latest evangelists argue that the much-feted millennial generation will increasingly turn to the site instead of traditional TV services, thanks to its mix of increasingly professional videos from well-known brands and homegrown stars.
The problem with this view is that it fails to take into account the undoubtedly important, but ultimately narrow, role that these brands see YouTube playing in their ever-ambitious multi-platform strategies.
It’s become increasingly clear that numerous YouTube creators from bedroom vloggers to Disney-owned Maker Studios see YouTube as just another channel to reach their audiences and monetize their talent. For the vloggers, YouTube has proved to be a launchpad into other markets, with well-known players signing deals for traditional TV shows, books, magazine columns, music, and even make-up ranges. For Maker, the site is a way to extend its most valuable intellectual property (IP) – it’s Marvel and Star Wars brands, for example – from the movies, TV shows, comics, toys, and other media.
Ovum expects that multichannel networks (MCNs) such as Maker, which have done so much to professionalize content on YouTube, will evolve to become multi-platform networks (MPNs), dedicated to maximizing their IP’s value across multiple channels. Many have recently added the ability to manage their clients’ presence across other user-generated video content platforms, such as Vine and Instagram. Rightster, which already calls itself an MPN, can syndicate content to the online video platforms of the Guardian, the Daily Mail, and other publishers.
Such MPNs would present less a threat to broadcasters than to talent-management and production companies by identifying talent and producing and publishing content faster, at lower cost, and across a wider variety of digital channels. Indeed, a growing number of broadcasters are seeking to benefit from innovation by MCNs, signing deals to co-produce shows for their channels and on-demand services.
Such moves will undoubtedly help to cement YouTube’s role in the media business. But the desire of tomorrow’s digital stars and brands to reach audiences via multiple forms of media means it will not amount to the kind of dominance that some are predicting today.
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