Technology Thoughts

Rewind 2012: YouTube

YouTube Rewind 2012

YouTube has come a long way since its birth in April 2005 and since people learnt how to get more views on Youtube, but what does its meteoric rise mean for the worlds of film and television?

When a young man posted a video of himself in a San Diego zoo in early 2005, no-one could have predicted it was the beginning of a revolution in on-line content.

Whilst what would become YouTube had antecedents (such as iFilm) it was a combination of timing and Silicon Valley connections that really sent it into the stratosphere, culminating in its acquisition by Google in October 2006.

Its explosive growth over that year and the sheer amount of copyrighted content being uploaded led to speculation that it would be sued out of existence.

That didn’t happen, largely because Google had the money to legally defend itself, but also because the first media corporation to take legal action (Viacom) had their claims of copyright infringement struck down in 2010.

Although they can still appeal, it looks like YouTube’s official takedown policy and their large legal budget will cover them on this front.

Perhaps more interesting is the partnerships that the site has engaged in with more traditional media organisations like the BBC and CBS (the latter who are owned by Viacom).

YouTube has become like a default TV station for the entire web.

As of January 2012, Reuters reported that it was:

…streaming 4 billion online videos every day, a 25 percent increase in the past eight months,

…According to the company, roughly 60 hours of video is now uploaded to YouTube every minute, compared with the 48 hours of video uploaded per minute in May.

A lot of this is copyrighted material, but a newer generation are growing up with the site as a regular outlet for films, television and music, but also as a launchpad for memes, funny animals, activism and all kind of weird and wonderful stuff.

Their review of the most popular videos of 2012, featured a neat interactive timeline.

The collection shows the sprawling nature of content on the site, which is now so vast that it boggles the mind to think where it will be in another seven years.

More importantly, what are the future implications for longer form content?

Will our collective attention span gradually reduce as we get used to more short-form content on mobile devices?

And what effect will this have on professionally produced shows and films?

Live sports and music won’t be immune either as the site has already made headways into streaming live cricket and concerts.

Is it conceivable that in the next few years (as broadband speeds really increase) YouTube could buy the English Premier League football rights? I certainly think so.

For the film business it represents crisis and opportunity. At a recent Hollywood Reporter round table discussion, several studio executives held forth on the state of the business.

But it was long-time veteran Jeffrey Katzenberg of DreamWorks Animation who perhaps had the most interesting things to say.

The full discussion is below but click here to go directly to his answer about the future (i.e. next ten years) of the industry:

Katzenberg’s analogy with sports is astute and the discussion of the release window also hints at the underlying tensions that are still ongoing between studios and exhibitors.

Whilst the conversation about home entertainment and video on demand is often dominated by Netflix and local sites such as Lovefilm (UK) and Hulu (US), YouTube is perhaps the most fascinating VOD platform for the future.

The sheer scale of content, infrastructure and legal bills paid by Google, are likely to make it an interesting barometer for the state of the film and TV business over the next decade.

> History of YouTube
> Time Magazine article from 2006


Watch Life in a Day on YouTube

The crowd-sourced documentary Life in a Day is now available to watch in full on YouTube.

Depicting life on July 24th 2010, the film consists of over 80,000 video clips submitted to YouTube and is credited to director Kevin Macdonald and ‘the Youtube Community’, with Ridley Scott as producer.

Editor Joe Walker along with McDonald had the daunting task of whittling down over 4,500 hours of footage from 140 countries into a coherent 95 minutes.

You can watch it all here:

The film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival back in January and the premiere was streamed live on YouTube.

It was also announced recently that a follow up film called Britain in a Day will be made from videos from the public about their lives on November 12th, 2011.

> Life in a Day’s channel on YouTube
>  YouTube at Wikipedia and Facebook
> Find out more about Britain in a Day on YouTube


YouTube Five Years On

Although this video is a YouTube promo, it is also a telling reminder of the extraordinary journey the site has been on in the last five years.

When it was founded in early 2005, who would have thought that world leaders, rock legends, famous directors, old age pensioners and funny cats would have all used the site as a platform?

News Technology

Pre-roll Ads on YouTube

YouTube logoDifferent UK broadcasters are going to test pre-roll ads on YouTube just weeks after the fiasco of ITV somehow not making any money out of the Susan Boyle viral video.

PaidContent report:

Separately to the renewal of its partnership with BBC Worldwide today, YouTube has agreed to trial pre-roll ads, and not just the usual display banners, on short-form UK TV clips offered by it BBCWW, Channel 4, National Geographic, ITN and Discovery partners.

Partners are able to place their own inventory, but the extent to which each is doing so varies.

Ads can last up to 30 seconds, at broadcasters’ discretion, but 15 seconds is the guideline and clips with ads must last at least one minute, YouTube told paidContent:UK.

Initial advertisers include Warner Bros,, Activision, Renault and Nissan. It kicks off with C4 running ads for WB’s The Hangover movie – but embedding of these clips is disabled.

ITV – surprise, surprise – doesn’t have a UK YouTube partnership and isn’t part of the trial (maybe not surprising given that outgoing chairman Michael Grade thinks it a ‘parasite’)

YouTube had been reluctant to use pre-rolls as they annoy users but apparently is going to test them again.

Perhaps short pre-rolls could work, but the length is debatable.

I tend to think ads around the video are a better option (from a user’s perspective) but advertisers obviously want more impact.

But can someone tell me why embedding is disabled?

This video from Channel 4, plugging a TV series called Embarrassing Illnesses, has a pre-roll ad for a new Warner Bros movie called The Hangover. (Again it can’t be embedded, so you’ll have to click through on the link). 

It is about 19 seconds long. Is that too much? Will it become the norm?

I’ll be surprised if it does.


YouTube blocked in China

China has blocked YouTube after footage of soldiers beating monks and other Tibetans appeared on the site.

BBC News report:

The date and location of the footage, posted by a Tibetan exile group, cannot be ascertained.

A Chinese government spokesman would not confirm whether YouTube had indeed been blocked.

China has a history of blocking websites which carry messages it views as politically unacceptable.

In most of China, YouTube has suddenly become inaccessible.

The site has been carrying a graphic video released by Tibetan exiles, which shows hundreds of uniformed Chinese troops swarming through a Tibetan monastery – a group of troops beat a man with batons.

Here is a Reuters report featuring the footage that got the Chinese government upset:

> Find out more about the dispute between China and Tibet at Wikipedia
> BBC News on how Pakistan blocked YouTube last year