Can YouTube work as a TV channel?
BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5…and YouTube? With ‘YouTube Original Content Channels’ (YOCCs) the video-sharing site might become a recognised media channel in the household sooner than you might think.
What are YOCCs?
For those unfamiliar with YOCCs, over the past year YouTube, in attempt to become “the ‘Channel 6’ of television” according to its bosses, have partnered with over 100 media production companies to date whereby these companies produce original video content exclusively on the YouTube platform. YouTube provide the start-up cash upfront to fund the partner’s new channel, and both partners take a share of future advertising revenues when the channel begins to monetise.
Current partners, spread across a wide range of categories, include: Red Bull TV, Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube in Cooking, MixMag TV in Music, and - a personal favourite - Copa90, a football channel in Sports which you can see in the video below. You can find the full list of YOCCs here.
The aim is obviously to attract more advertising spend onto the YouTube platform but more importantly doing it by fostering good quality, creative content for viewers and not solely through ads - a refreshing approach…I’m sick of YouTube ads…
And it’s actually showing some promise too – big players are coming in and really experimenting with the medium, producing some brilliant unique content and building loyal fan bases. I’m enjoying them, as an avid fan of Copa90 – the football channel I mentioned earlier. Copa90 produce 8 different shows, uploading new episodes weekly or fortnightly.
I’ve been glued to the channel this football season, with routinely visits to watch one show in particular ‘The Eurofan’ (above) – where Radio 1 DJ Tom Deacon spends a day with home supporters in a Champions League city somewhere in Europe, looked after and given tips by the YouTubers who are following the Copa90 channel. And it’s built quite the following around Europe with likeminded football fans. If you’ve not seen it yet - watch it!
But we’re not talking here about just a presenter and a small camera crew, although it might look that way. Copa90 is owned and run by the rather nicely named international digital media company BigBalls Ltd, a production company with a strong track record in using the latest digital channels. Back in the day (well in the Bebo days) BigBalls produced the first successful sponsored web drama ‘Kate Modern’ on Bebo - it got nominated for two BAFTAs. More success came from an online murder mystery show in 2009 ‘Who Killed Summer?’ sponsored by Vodafone and nominated for more top industry awards. And then there’s the successful online football game ‘I AM PLAYR’ sponsored by Nike and played in over 200 countries, and winning a Gold Lion in Branded Content and Entertainment at last year’s Cannes festival. See its trailer below. We’re talking here about a talented and innovative media firm.
Together with YouTube, BigBalls are aiming for Copa90 to become the biggest football destination in Europe – having already gathered 200,000 subscribers (including myself) worldwide – and have further plans to introduce up to 15 more sports channels just like it. 200,000 might sound modest in YouTube numbers, but we’re not talking about the 1 billion views ‘Gangnam Style’ amassed, we’re talking about loyal viewers returning for more who actually have a say in what is produced. It’s ground-breaking, it’s truly social and traditional TV might struggle to keep up with this growing trend.
And Copa90 is just one example. The world’s eyes were also glued to YouTube last year when Red Bull broadcast live Felix Baumgartner’s free fall from space back to earth on Red Bull TV. Talk about engaging content! It all seems quite promising if future YOCCs, presumably run by equally talented digital media companies, can maintain the high standards being set.
Are YOCCs the Future?
Can I see YouTube become a serious player in the media industry with YOCCs? Well, yes. With over 100 channels just like Copa90 and counting, YouTube’s vision to become the Channel 6 of TV is close to becoming a reality. I give it a year or two. It’s offering different content , sometimes more exciting than traditional television channels provide, it’s engaging and it’s significantly more interactive than the slapping of hashtags at the bottom of TV screens today. With trends moving towards one home entertainment system using combinations of the likes of Smart TVs, Xbox Live, and providers such as Virgin Media and Sky integrating digital services like BBC iPlayer, 4OD, ITV Player etc. into offerings, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that YouTube (or a separate YOCCs app) could soon be standing next to these services on our TV screens.
Do YOCCs make money? Not yet. But it will come. YouTube are hoping to create such high demand that viewers might subscribe, paying £1 or £2 per month for access to such channels, but I don’t see that catching on. Would you pay to watch a YouTube channel? I wouldn’t. Instead I’d prefer to see a different approach like discrete endorsements or promotions – with Tom Deacon wearing branded clothing in next season’s ‘Eurofan’ – nothing obvious. YOCCs have the opportunity here to be discrete and different from the norm, a chance for a fresh approach.
It’ll certainly be interesting to follow the progress of YOCCs as they build stronger fan bases. I for one can’t wait for next seasons ‘Eurofan’ and other series like it. YOCCs might be on our home screens sooner than you think.