YouTube’s VP of global content partnerships Robert Kyncl issued an unusual dare to CES on Thursday.
“I dare you to find a television channel anywhere in the world that will reach (34 million yoga enthusiasts in the world),” he said. “I guarantee within a year or two you will find a wonderful yoga channel on YouTube delighting viewers on a global basis and providing smart, innovative brand holders the reach of an audience that is incredibly targeted and incredibly passionate.”
Kyncl was certainly passionate about YouTube’s move to create highly targeted niche channels while laying out a vision for a future where online video becomes the main way for delivering entertainment during the company’s keynote at CES, in Las Vegas, as part of the Entertainment Matters program.
He opened his presentation with YouTube success stories, such as beauty expert Michelle Phan, and statistics showing the explosive growth of online video: 350 million YouTube videos shared on Twitter alone in 2011; 120 million views of user-generated commercials for Coca-Cola; 1.4 million viewers per episode for Phan’s programs, versus 700,000 for cable’s Style Channel.
Judged by number of viewers alone, “The top five YouTube channels would rank in the top-20 cable channels on television,” Kyncl said.
“We’re only getting started,” was his recurring theme, with Kyncl predicting, “With the rise of the Internet and the speed of the Internet, we believe, though we don’t have the proof, that by 2020, 75% of all channels, be it the existing channels on television or new channels, will be transmitted and born on the Internet.”
Naturally, those predictions come as YouTube is about to launch 100 channels of original content to bolster its viewership and ad revenue.
Still, Kyncl predicted the growth and consumption of online video would resemble apps, noting that while most people only watch around 20 of the hundreds of available cable channels, most people with smartphones have between 30 and 50 apps installed.
“The number of content aggregators available to you is going up on an open platform,” Kyncl said.
Kyncl left the stage to make way for an Entertainment Matters panel, moderated by Medialink CEO Michael Kassan, whose speakers included “CSI”-creator Anthony Zuiker; Machinima CEO Allen DeBevoise; Google VP of marketing Lucas Watson; GroupM North America CEO Rob Norman; and T-Mobile VP of advertising Peter DeLuca.
“We see the future of storytelling on YouTube,” said Zuiker in kicking off the panel. “The ability to tell stories on a categorical niche makes possible not just the future of entertainment but possibly the extinction of TV as we know it.”
Zuiker said interactive devices have already taught viewers to consume content interactively: “The behavior has already shifted, and we’re catching up through YouTube and Google to match those behaviors all around the world. This is just the beginning. It’s an historic moment for all of us.”
Much of the panel focused on opportunities for advertisers in an ever-changing new media landscape.
Watson said channelization is making advertisers more comfortable because they can use techniques they know from television.
“People are starting to recognize (online channels) give you a lot of the benefits you love with sound and motion with a whole bunch of extra stuff you can do where people can participate in the creation of brands,” he said. “The energy and excitement we’ve felt this week at CES with a lot our partners has been intense. I think we’re on the steep part of the curve.”
But Norman stressed, and other panelists agreed, that online video is entering a Darwinian period where some will succeed greatly and others will “fail horribly.” Still, Norman praised the YouTube ecosystem for providing advertisers with data “we’ve never experienced with television.”
“It’s self-evident the advertiser will follow user attention and user engagement, but let me qualify that by the potential for the advertising to stand out within that content.”
DeBevoise noted music video channel Vevo and videogame channel Machinima are two of the most successful on YouTube, saying, “MTV eventually kicked music videos off the air, and G4’s ratings are not stellar. Every time you have a shift of medium you end up with new programming categories that resonate in a different way.”
Zuiker said that while professionally organized channels are the future of entertainment, user-generated content will remain essential. “Some of the best content I’ve ever witnessed is on YouTube,” he said.
“We are embracing the person who’s not in the business and looking to them as a source of inspiration. They’re the reason we’re on this stage.”