It’s that time of year when ReelSEO’s videologists and columnists are asked to make predictions about the future. To prepare for this annual ritual, I reviewed all of the previous year’s news and trends in the online video and internet marketing industries, had a single malt Scotch, and then waited to hear the small, still voice in my head that says, “Listen! Do you smell something?”
Using this time-tested technique, I’ve just had an epiphany: YouTube will launch its own cable television network in April 2015! And there’s a better than 80% probability that the video sharing site, which was founded in 2005 with the tagline “Broadcast Yourself,” will start narrowcasting over its own cable TV channel on April 29, 2015.
2015: YouTube Cable, Television, and the Millennials
Now, I can’t cite any reliable sources for this astounding prediction because it’s entirely based on pure speculation. So, why do I know that this seemingly unpredictable event has a better than 80% chance of happening on a particular day? Here are the trifles that I have observed over the past year that have led me step by step to make this remarkable deduction.
YouTube makes the following statement on its Statistics page, under the Viewership data: “According to Nielsen, YouTube reaches more US adults ages 18-34 than any cable network.” Now, as we all know, the Statistics page is woefully out-of-date. It still says, “100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute,” when the actual number is now 300. And it still says, “Mobile makes up almost 40% of YouTube's global watch time,” when the real figure is now 50%. So, we need to look elsewhere for corroboration of my theory.
Fortunately, we can find it over on Think with Google in YouTube Insights, Q2 2014. It cites US Statistics from the Nielsen Video Census and Nielsen People Meter using the March-May 2014 Monthly Average, which show, “YouTube reaches more 18-34 year-olds than any cable network.” There’s also a chart which shows YouTube vs. top cable nets by the percentage of 18-34 year-olds reached.
Traditional Broadcasting vs Digital Video
Now, most of us assume that the target audience for these insights is advertisers. But, could another target audience for these insights be multiple-system operators (MSOs), such as Cablevision, Charter Communications, Comcast, Cox Communications, and Time Warner Cable in the US; Rogers Communications, Shaw Communications, and Videotron in Canada; and Virgin Media in the UK?
On Nov. 17, I observed, “All of the largest players in the television industry understand the paramount importance of digital video to the future of TV and entertainment. They see what we see, which means that digital video publishing is evolving. After having been touted as an integral part of TV’s future for some time, it is clear from the behavior of consumers, publishers, advertisers, and investors that digital television’s time is now.”
The only thing that I failed to observe at the time was that YouTube sees what all of the largest players in the television industry see – only YouTube sees it from the opposite perspective. YouTube knows that many of its Stars are looking at adding “offline” distribution to monetize their content or channel. And YouTube even says in its Creator Playbook for Brands, “your YouTube content should be part of a broader branded content plan that’s not limited to video or even to digital.” So, is it really that surprising that YouTube might also be thinking about adding “offline” distribution, or have a broader branded content plan that’s not limited to video or even to digital?
Is YouTube Cable TV Just a Pipe Dream?
If you realize that it is inevitable that YouTube will launch its own cable television network, then other hard-to-explain behavior by a “video sharing site” becomes easy to explain.
For example, YouTube ran an ad campaign from early April to mid-May 2014 to promote three of the biggest YouTube stars with ads appearing across TV, magazines, and out-of-home advertising as well as on Google-owned properties. In the US, the three partners that YouTube chose to feature for the first phase of this ad campaign were Michelle Phan, Bethany Mota, and Rosanna Pansino. And in the UK, YouTube ran a similar ad campaign in late September to October featuring Vice News, Zoella, and The Slow Mo Guys.
At the time, many videologists and columnists (like me) couldn’t explain why YouTube would run TV commercials. But we were still thinking of YouTube as a “video sharing site.” That’s why we couldn’t imagine that this TV ad campaign might be part of a longer-term push by YouTube to raise the profile of its programming in hopes of also raising its ad revenues … on its own cable TV network that would be launched the following year.
So, where will all of YouTube’s cable TV programming be broadcast, or narrowcast, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year? And how could YouTube possibly hide their new studios in plain sight months before they could negotiate with the MSOs to carry their new cable channel? And why wouldn’t YouTube just announce their plans a year in advance? Well, if YouTube can’t negotiate carriage with the MSOs, then they’ve got nothing to launch. And announcing a year ahead of time that you plan to launch a new cable TV channel puts you in a weaker negotiating position with the MSOs, as I learned the hard way in the mid-1990s when I was involved with the launch of ZDTV.
YouTube Spaces: TV Studios in the Making?
This makes the hard-to-explain opening of YouTube Spaces in Los Angeles, London, Tokyo, and New York easy to explain. On the surface, they appear to be designed especially for creators to produce video content, learn new skills, and collaborate with the YouTube creative community. But, they can be transformed overnight into a global TV programming network.
Finally, why am I confident that YouTube will announce the launch of its own cable television network in April 2015? Because that’s when the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) will hold the fourth annual Digital Content NewFronts marketplace in New York City. The eight-day event, which runs from April 27-May 6, 2015, will spotlight the best in upcoming digital video programming for marketers and media buyers trying to reach engaged audiences. And, according to the IAB’s preliminary schedule, Google/YouTube will produce and manage its own independent, invitation-only event on Wednesday, April 29.
Is this just the Scotch talking? Quite possibly. But in A Study in Scarlet, Holmes also said, “In solving a problem of this sort, the grand thing is to be able to reason backward.” Later, in The Sign of the Four (1890), he remarked, “How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?”