YouTube is the clear and obvious king of online video... for now. And they got there by giving the masses a voice and letting any amateur filmmaker create an account and upload videos. But if the latest rumors are true--that YouTube is actively courting specific celebrities and entertainers to create their own branded channel--then the legacy of YouTube might change.
According to The Vulture--New York Magazine's entertainment blog--YouTube has begun wooing certain celebrities with the concept of their own branded channel. And the offer has to be tempting--Vulture's sources say YouTube is willing to pay out as much as $5 Million to a single celeb, which would serve as both that entertainer's salary and their channel's production budget.
In many ways, this is kind of YouTube's way of saying: "Yeah, Will Ferrell was right all along." You might remember that FunnyOrDie.com, Ferrell's video portal, was started to create a unique place where celebrity-made videos and amateur-made videos coexist. After years of backing the little guy, it looks like YouTube might be getting jealous of the kind of eyeballs celebrity-created content can bring.
The anonymous insider source says:
"The idea is not so much content acquisition as it is to supercharge content creation: By offering a wider range of better-quality content, viewers are happier, Google's advertisers are happier, and the talent is happier.”
Rather than creating random videos at whim, each celeb's channel will have a specific focus or topic or theme. The Vulture throws out this example:
"Think, just by way of example, of a nature and wildlife YouTube channel programmed (and owned) by Bear Grylls, or a fashion channel controlled by Tim Gunn, and you get the idea."
There are several immediate reactions I have to all this:
Will The Celeb Channels Take A Bite Out Of Amateurs' Viewership?
While their actual income figures are almost constantly disputed, there are people making money with YouTube--some of them making big money. People like iJustine and Freddiew... those people are making money off the ad revenue their videos drum up. They have built up loyal followings and have networks of fans that help promote new clips.
So... who's going to watch Freddiew's charming special effects videos if some big-shot Hollywood effects guy starts up a competing channel (with a $5 Million production budget, no less)? Will the viewers flock to the celebrity content and dilute the potential audience for the Average Joes? I have no idea if it will, but it's a legitimate concern. If I were one of the top amateur YouTube filmmakers, I would be wary of this rumor... not excited about it.
By way of an example... just look at how well music videos perform on YouTube as opposed to original music from amateurs--there's no comparison... famous artists trounce the little guys, and quality of content isn't even part of the reason--it's all about celebrity. So there will definitely be viewers that gravitate toward content created by a celebrity--just because of that person's celebrity--and that could leave the best and the brightest of the unknowns in the dark, scrambling for viewers.
Will the Celebs Simply Elevate The Overall Content Pool?
Let's face it: there's a lot of crap on YouTube. A lot. If there's one consistent criticism of the site, particularly in the face of rivals like Vimeo, it's that a lot of the content aims for the lowest common denominator. I think we would all be in favor of a move that elevates the overall quality of the videos on the site.
Adding celebrity-created content should do just that, because you would expect that content to be higher in production values and quality. If the overall content pool improves, then even the amateur filmmakers will benefit from the higher number of viewers, better quality of viewers, and the overall improved reputation of YouTube itself.
This Is Still Just A Rumor
It's hard to believe, in this day and age, but just because someone says they're an insider at a big company doesn't always mean they are. When a story like this basically has only one source... and that source is anonymous... then it raises a giant, red caution flag. YouTube might not be pursuing celebrities at all.
But even if they are, I don't think it means the sky is falling for the amateur filmmakers of the world. If Funny Or Die didn't kill YouTube, then a handful of celebrity-run channels won't either. Still, the move is somewhat surprising, if true. It would be a shame if the site that rocketed to power with the tagline "broadcast yourself" began to overlook their non-famous users in favor of more "traditional" content.