NewFronts: YouTube Song and Dance Focuses

No. 1 Internet video site doesn't launch any major initiatives or content partnerships

What’s new with YouTube? The world’s biggest Internet video site — with a bullet — didn’t launch any major new initiatives at its NewFronts event, with execs instead claiming that YouTube has already changed face of video entertainment for a new generation.

“TV means reach. YouTube means engagement,” said global head of content Robert Kyncl at Google’s YouTube Brandcast event, as part of the weeklong Digital Content NewFronts in New York.

People spent 50% more time watching YouTube in 2012, and the site now streams 6 billion hours of video monthly to more than 1 billion unique users per month, Kyncl said. YouTube now reaches more U.S. viewers 18-34 than any single TV network, according to Nielsen.

Kyncl called out investments by media companies including Time Warner Inc., The Chernin Group, Bertelsmann, Discovery Communications and Comcast in companies that create, aggregate or service content for YouTube in the last year.

Google calls YouTube’s young-skewing demo Gen C, who focus on “creation, curation, connection and community.” Internet company commissioned research firm Ipsos to survey people that fall in the Gen C psychographic about media consumption, which found that 66% of cohort spend the same or more amount of time watching online video as they do watching TV.

“I thought that YouTube was like TV, but it isn’t. I was wrong,” Kyncl said. “TV is one-way. YouTube talks back.”

As far as new content or partners, YouTube didn’t have  much to discuss. AwesomenessTV, YouTube channel aimed a teens which has had more than 100 million video views since launching last year, is introducing scripted teen drama “Side Effects” and reality show “How to Be a YouTube Star,” series of shows in which a fan will be given opportunity to star in their own video.

“Teens love to be content creators,” AwesomenessTV CEO Brian Robbins said.

On Wednesday, DreamWorks Animation announced the acquisition of AwesomenessTV for $33 million. Under deal, Robbins will help develop a DWA-branded digital channel aimed at family audiences.

Online video is “something we need to be a part of, and the best possible way to do this is to partner,” DreamWorks Animation topper Jeffrey Katzenberg said. “It’s the medium of the future, and the future has already arrived.”

More than 50% of views on Awesomeness TV come from mobile devices, according to Robbins. “For teens, devices provide a gateway to their community of friends” as well as video content.

Execs also talked up YouTube as a marketing platform, showing recent branded-content campaigns from Dove, Pepsi Max, Red Bull and McDonald’s Canada. YouTube did not discuss the still-in-the-works project to introduce subscription video channels, which is expected this spring.

Google expected about 1,000 people to attend YouTube Brandcast, held on the Lower East Side at Pier 36, as a standing-room only crowd packed into the venue.

YouTube is consistently the No. 1 vidsite in audience, views and ads served. In March, Google video properties (predominantly YouTube) streamed 12.8 billion videos and 2.3 billion video ads to 153.9 million unique users in the U.S. alone, according to comScore.

With the proliferation of smartphones, YouTube’s reach will grow even more, Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt said. Around the world, “screens are simply everywhere,” he said. “On those screens, much of the time, video is playing.”

Schmidt, who introduced event, said at the outset, “You think I’m going to tell you… that people will shift from television watching to the Internet. The only problem is, that’s not what I’m actually going to say. What I’m going to say is, that’s already happened.”

YouTube personalities who appeared onstage included Snoop Lion (rapper formerly known as Snoop Dogg); Felicia Day, producer and featured star on “Geek & Sundry” channel (“I usually get recognized by baristas”); violinist Lindsey Stirling; Ryan Higa of YouTube’s “nigahiga”; D-Trix, exec producer and host, “Dance Showdown”; and a breakdancing toddler.

Music-heavy event ended with performance by hip-hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis.

YouTube kicked off online originals initiative in earnest in late 2011, investing some $200 million to bring more than 100 “channels” to the site. Some of those partners have been unhappy with how YouTube has sold ads for the content and are shifting gears. Fremantle Media, for example, has teamed with Blip for The Pet Collective channel — which launched on YouTube a year ago — for ad sales and first-run distribution.

In a session with reporters after the presentation, Kyncl said YouTube has moved away from “these waves of announcements” on original channel partners. “Now it’s simply about finding the right talent and content,” he said.

Separately, YouTube recently signed on as premiere sponsor of VidCon hybrid fan/biz conference for next two years.

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