Video-sharing site YouTube, which is also the second-largest search engine on the planet after Google, is to undergo a major overhaul that will see it go head-to-head with the TV broadcast world in what will be a massive web/TV convergence land grab.
Last year, YouTube began an experiment in streaming live TV, which was a key indicator to where the site sees its future. Rumours also began to surface in recent months of YouTube planning a movie-streaming venture that would begin in Europe before spreading to the US.
According to reports, including one in The Wall Street Journal, YouTube believes the point of convergence between TV and the internet has been reached and the site is prepared to compete with broadcast and cable TV.
YouTube is planning to introduce 20 channels that will feature several hours of professionally produced, original programming.
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The video site is to spend more than US$100m to produce low-cost content designed exclusively for the web. In recent weeks, YouTube acquired Dublin-based video technology company Green Parrot Pictures for an undisclosed sum. Green Parrot Pictures specialises in delivering intellectual licensing and high quality picture-manipulation technology. Anil Kokaram, an associate professor at Trinity College, founded the company in 2004.
The acquisition of Green Parrot came a fortnight after YouTube bought Next New Networks for US$50m. Next New Networks, which attracts 2bn views a month, produces original programmes and helps content creators distribute films and make money.
YouTube also said it was expanding its staff by 30pc, taking on 200 extra people, and revealed its staff now includes aspiring filmmakers, musicians, activists and documentary makers.
The move by YouTube towards a channel-based strategy will see it not only compete with established broadcasters but also online video rivals, like Netflix and Hulu. Broadcasters, too, are planning to grab a share of the converged web/TV opportunity – yesterday, DISH Networks acquired video rental giant Blockbuster Inc, which incidentally has a movie-streaming wing.