Talk of YouTube’s new original channels consumed Kardashian levels of conversation in the video business over the past week, and it’s been keeping us busy. The news came in a flurry, all at once as nearly all of the 100+ new YouTube-funded channels were announced late last Friday. It was akin to lottery day for the several dozen new media and traditional production studios, all eagerly looking to see just who got what.
“The web is bringing us entertainment from an even wider range of talented producers, and many of the defining channels of the next generation are being born, and watched, on YouTube,” said YouTube’s Global Head of Content Partnerships Robert Kyncl at the announcement.
Deepak Chopra is one of the chosen ones for Kyncl’s new ‘wider range’ of talent coming to the world’s largest network. The doctor and inspirational thought leader is launching his first dedicated entertainment channel, The Chopra Well, in early summer of 2012, with the help of digital studio Generate.
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There were few words describing the new channel—Inspiration, Knowledge, Total Wellbeing—so we were curious what the Chopra’s had planned for the upstart channel. Gotham Chopra, Deepak’s son and partner on the new channel, told us, “it’s basically a commitment over the course of a year, with the intention of fresh video content on a daily basis and certainly on a weekly basis, that is YouTube friendly.” While there is already a DeepakChopraGlobal channel with regular postings, the new funding lets it step up its output. “Our channel is unique in the sense that my father has a very deep engagement with his audience,” added Chopra. “he’s engaged with his audience every day and it’s an evolution of that relationship.”
Jordan Levin, who heads up Generate, has been a regular fixture over the past few years on Tubefilter, building his studio with original series like The Lake, Pink and The Walking Dead as the digital side of the entertainment industry bobbed up and down through various waves of exuberance. Now however, things seem different, as if a spigot of premium content had finally been flipped on after the kinks in the hose were worked out.
“Right now, YouTube is the only one pursing this model in this scale,” said Levin. “There are certainly channel models that have been created, like BermanBraun with Microsoft or other companies turning to strategic partnerships to form a channel, but as a distribution platform this effort on such a scale to organize content and incubate a community of content creators is unparalleled today.”
Much of the impetus for the estimated $150 million in funding commitments from YouTube was driven by feedback from major advertisers on the site hungry for more premium and ‘well-lit streets’ of content. So, I asked Levin, are brands finally at a tipping point?
“I unfortunately think it is still going to be a gradual transition,” he cautioned. “The only way to see a meaning full shift is when brands realize in order to effectively market to their consumer target they’re going to have to utilize digital experiences as healthy part of their overall media buy. I’m not a believer that traditional media isn’t still effective but I think incrementally there needs to be greater value placed on digital experiences.”
Those digital experiences are not just regressing back to the traditional linear TV programming model either, he believes. “I think we’re moving beyond that as consumers, especially younger viewers,” added Levin. “We’re shifting to an on-demand model. It becomes the responsibility of content providers and curators to figure out valuable and efficient ways that is relevant to a specific audience. At the same time dialog with and respond to and adapt based on that community’s input, which should be digested immediately. I think not only the delivery is changing but the relations between audience and creator is changing.”
Chopra, who along with his sister Mallika and father Deepak will be on the front lines of experimentation with that new creator-audience relationship with their new channel. “Something we’re all seeing today is that it’s all based on engagement of audience—whether it’s Occupy Wall Street, or the Tea Party, it’s generating a lot of passion, but it’s not clear how to turn it into real action. Turning it into something purposeful takes this deep desire that people have for transformation in their lives and give them tools to activate it. It’s a conversation, not just wellness health space, but inspiration, total well-being knowledge space, giving people tools to do stuff and transform in own lives.”
(Top photo by Jeremiah Sullivan)