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YouTube: “We are to cable what cable was to broadcast”

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We want TV-sized audiences for our original programming, and we’re prepared to promote big like TV.

That was the essential message from top Google (s GOOG) executives at the company’s star-studded “NewFront” presentation to advertisers at New York’s Beacon Theatre Wednesday night, as they unveiled yet more original programming channels for their YouTube platform, as well as an ambitious $200 million promotional campaign on YouTube and Google’s Display Network to draw viewers to the shows.

With ad-industry trades including Ad Age and Adweek on hand to witness musical performances by Jay-Z, Flo Rida, Miri Bin-Ari and Neon Trees, top Google executives, including executive chairman Eric Schmidt and YouTube global content chief Robert Kyncl (seen above flanked by actresses Virginia Madsen and Jennifer Beals) laid out an expensive dog-and-pony show for advertisers that looked a lot like your standard springtime network TV “upfront” presentation.

Of course, with Google’s presentation capping off the Digital NewFronts — a two-week series of reach-outs by digital companies to advertisers and their media agencies intended to bite into television’s $70 billion share of ad dollars — that was the plan.

YouTube’s presentation — which was easily the splashiest of the two-week digital-video bombardment of Madison Avenue — also included the unveiling of a cable-TV-like program guide, which is meant to consolidate YouTube’s nearly 100 premium video channels into an offering that’s easier to navigate.

“We learned from TV,” Kyncl said. “You can press a button and relax.”

It was actually Chris Hardwick, who runs YouTube’s popular Nerdist channel, who  summed up Google’s intentions best: “The web will be to cable TV what cable TV was to broadcast,” he said.

They’ve already taken the viewers, now they want the dollars

By its own count, YouTube is about halfway through the launch of its $100 million plan to launch around 100 “premium” video channels. By July, the company said, it hopes to debut at least 25 hours of original programming on these channels each day.

Key to YouTube’s presentation Wednesday night was data supporting its claim that the Internet’s leading video destination has already bitten off a huge chunk of traditional TV’s younger viewership.

As part of a viewership study unveiled Wednesday called “Generation V,” the company presented data indicating that men ages 18-34 now spend more time streaming video than watching linear TV. The study also says that 40 percent of women ages 25-49 subscribe to a YouTube channel, and half of those have shared a video from those channels within the last week.

More new channels

Of course, nary a day goes by without YouTube rolling out more channels, and the company used Wednesday’s event to introduce several more:

WIGS: Producers Jon Avnet (Black Swan, Risky Business) and Rodgrigo Garcia (Albert Nobbs, In Treatment) have joined forces to create a channel focused on scripted dramatic shows targeted to women. Madsen, Beals and Sarah Jones (pictured above right) are some of the participating onscreen talent who were in attendance Wednesday night. The channel will launch later in May.

TeamUSA: Produced by the U.S. Olympic Committee and sponsored by AT&T, this channel will include original content featuring 2012 U.S. Olympians, hopefuls and legends from years past, instruction from Olympic sport coaches and historical Olympic Games footage.

— The Picture Show: Tribeca Enterprises, the parent company of Tribeca Film Festival and the distribution label Tribeca Film, has teamed up with YouTube partner Maker Studios to create  a new channel that will launch later this year.