YouTube's latest interface that displays video channels upfront versus individual uploads.

The New Yorker’s John Seabrook recently interviewed YouTube’s Global Head of Content Robert Kyncl about the video-sharing service’s future and extensively detailed how YouTube is targeting a $300 billion chunk of the television industry through increased viewership, enhanced content, connected devices, and niche audiences.

Niches, as The New Yorker illustrated, are the future of television. The iconic industry started with just three networks decades ago, and it now features hundreds of cable channels each serving a niche—news, sports, food, weather, music, and more.

“People went from broad to narrow,” said Kyncl to The New Yorker. “And we think they will continue to go that way—spend more and more time in the niches—because now the distribution landscape allows for more narrowness.”

The downside to niches, as Kyncl explained, is cost. Apparently, it is expensive to program niche channels when factoring in various technical costs and the practicality of filling a 24/7 loop. However, with the advent of the Internet, niches are in high-demand, costs are lower than ever, and accessibility is at an all-time high…

According to Forrester Research, half of all households will have Wi-Fi-enabled devices on their televisions by 2016. Cable companies will need to enter the ballgame of web-based services fairly soon to compete with the imminent transition and YouTube is offering them the opportunity.

Kyncl announced that 100 partners from about 500 content provider proposals agreed to expand YouTube’s offerings and cater to niche audiences. The video-sharing service partnered with popular names such as Disney, Tony Hawk, The Onion, and the Wall Street Journal to create channels.

YouTube has come a long way since its mainstay of random videos, such as “The Evolution of Dance,” “Shoes” or “Charlie the Unicorn,” as the website now streams original, high-definition content and many classic films.

YouTube's original interface in 2005.

Former PayPal employees Chad Hurley, Steven Chen, and Jawed Karim founded YouTube in 2005, and as the legend goes, the three visionaries created the website after a dinner party where video clips were filmed. Guests had no way to share the media easily after the party, and the founders decided it was time to create a service that could help. Another source of inspiration came from Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” on CBS’s broadcast of the 2004 Super Bowl halftime show, because —as Karim noted— if you missed the live broadcast you were out of luck.

Karim uploaded the first YouTube video (as seen below) on the evening of April 23, 2005. It is an 18-second clip of him mumbling, perhaps even rambling, about the zoo’s elephants in the background. Little did the website’s founders know, the world (and YouTube) would never be the same.


Google bought YouTube in 2006, and its two main founders promptly posted a video to announce the acquisition (as seen below). The search engine’s immense status on the Web propelled YouTube to 800 million monthly viewers. Approximately 48 hours of new video are uploaded every minute, and over 350 million devices ranging from smartphones to televisions have direct access to YouTube.


Kyncl, who moved from online rival Netflix almost two years ago, visits the International Consumer Electronics Show annually to scope connected devices and keep up-to-date with streaming television. He is delivering a keynote speech at the show on Thursday where he is expected to talk about the future of his company and the content it will soon provide.

According to Reuters, YouTube asked its partners to provide a certain number of hours of programming per week, because the popular service does not rely on subscription fees but rather advertising revenue. It is essential for YouTube to have a steady supply of content for this new plan to work, and the service’s production model is quickly attracting new producers by the droves. More premium channels are expected to roll out over the next six months.

View YouTube’s Original Channel Guide for a complete list of content providers.

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