Google (NSDQ: GOOG) confirmed one of the most open content secrets around late Friday: YouTube is partnering with programmers to launch dozens of new YouTube channels — as many as 100 — with thousands of hours of exclusive premium content in a bid to create a digital-age cable universe with global reach. The first channels are set to premiere next month, with more rolling out through 2012.
It’s billed by some as Google meets Hollywood but it’s not that narrow. Programmers range from celebs (Madonna, Rainne Wilson, Ashton Kutcher), athletes (Lance Armstrong, Shaquille O’Neal) and major media outlets (WSJ, Hearst Magazines, Thomson Reuters) to the internet-native companies that rank among YouTube’s most visited sites, including Machinima, Demand Media (NYSE: DMD), and Maker Studios. (Here’s the full list.)
Crossover programmers from TV are also there in force: Ben Silverman, Electus; Lloyd Braun and Gail Berman, BermanBraun; and Brian Bedol, Bedrocket. IGN is partnering with new News Corp. (NSDQ: NWS) sibling Shine on a channel. CSI creator Anthony Zuiker, Tony Valenzuela and other writers will provide scripted programming for Collective Digital Studio to co-produce and market on BlackBoxTV.
These aren’t channels in the conventional cable sense, expected to be programmed linearly up to 24/7. My Damn Channel, for instance, is producing My Damn Channel: Live, a 30-minute weekly show with new 10-minute features daily.
The content will be exclusive to YouTube for 18 months. It also with be available globally. That’s a major departure from some of the entertainment premieres we’re used to seeing, where rights are carved up by geography and windowed in to the most slots possible.
The plans include financing the new channels, up to $5 million in some cases, according to sources. Rather than an investment or a funding that might imply equity, Google is providing the money through grants with a nearly 50-50 rev share (some deals vary) after proceeds are used for payback.
Robert Kyncl, the global head of content partnerships, positioned the content push carefully in a low-key blog post:
Our goal with this channels expansion, along with the grants and educational programs we’ve launched in the past year, is to bring an even broader range of entertainment to YouTube, giving you more reasons to keep coming back again and again. And for advertisers, these channels will represent a new way to engage and reach their global consumers.
The announcement initially was planned for next week but was moved up, apparently in reaction to a WSJ article earlier Friday spelling out many of the details.