First, YouTube extended the limits on uploaded content; some partners are now able to post feature-film-length videos. But it seems that Google has even bigger plans for YouTube to become not just the video network of the future, but the whole broadcast system as well. Last week, the company announced that YouTube Live is now active. YouTube again is starting with selected partners, but eventually they hope to have thousands of members providing live streaming content. You can see what’s available right now as well as a schedule of upcoming programs by going to www.youtube.com/live.
This is a bit of a stunning development. On the one hand, you have Netflix opening its wallet and shelling out $90 million for “Mad Men”. (Note that this is not just for the past seasons, but for seasons to come, and in Hulu-like fashion, episodes will be available right after they air on AMC.) But here is YouTube making a bid to become the go-to service for live programming, not some catch-up content that you could probably get using your DVR.
It will be interesting to see how this works out, as we’re in uncharted territory here. Will this be a full-on assault for the traditional broadcast television networks, or will this just become another way to see cute kittens and teens pulling dubious pranks? I think it has enormous potential to be the source for very narrowly focused content, much like the existing YouTube hosted content. If that happens, I can see this becoming the source for “micro-broadcasting” of sports and entertainment events that can’t muster an audience that is large enough for major network coverage. If my favorite local music venue started broadcasting some or all of their concerts, I’m pretty sure that I’d watch. And I expect that it would make me more likely to want to attend more of the shows in person.
This is definitely a development to watch closely.