Citing the obligatory “people familiar with the matter”, the Wall Street Journal in a story this morning reports that Google is finalizing contracts for upcoming YouTube channels that will stream premium entertainment content on a regular basis. Google CEO Larry Page apparently wants to give people a good reason to tune into YouTube instead of television. Content owners are being “encouraged” to create schedules of programming much like traditional TV, the paper noted.

YouTube has requested some content for the channels within the next 60 days, according to one of these people, as it considers a launch in early 2012. YouTube, which media companies have long griped is too stingy cutting content deals, is paying from a few hundred thousand dollars to several million to content creators to create and curate videos for a channel, according to these people. Google recoups the original payment through ad revenue, and Google and the partner share ad revenue after that.

This could be viewed as part of Google’s broader push towards providing high-quality Hollywood entertainment on YouTube. The timely strategy ties nicely with the Google TV project, which is also about to be updated with a new software release soon. The Wall Street Journal first reported on Google’s plans to spend a hundred million dollars on premium YouTube content back in April. Google is reportedly in talks with Creative Artists Agency, William Morris Endeavor and International Creative Management over professionally produced programming on broad themes, including arts, fashion and sports.

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