Google plans YouTube content revamp

Google is working on a major overhaul of YouTube as it tries to position itself for the rise of Connected TVs, reports The Wall Street Journal.

According to people familiar with the matter, YouTube is looking to compete with broadcast and cable television, which would entail enticing users to stay on the website longer, and to convince advertisers that it will reach desirable consumers.

Reports suggest that the site is planning a series of changes to its home page to highlight sets of ‘channels’ around topics such as arts and sports. Some 20 or so of those channels will feature several hours of professionally-produced original programming a week. Additional channels would be created from content already on the site.

The plans include spending as much as $100 million to commission low-cost content designed exclusively for the Web, suggest inside sources.

A YouTube spokesman declined to comment on the new initiatives. “YouTube saw incredible growth in 2010 and we’re excited about the future,” the spokesman said.

YouTube’s initiative comes at a time when streaming video services are growing stronger. Netflix has been building up a library of TV content and movies, recently securing rights to stream the hit series Mad Men, with Amazon.com and Hulu also acquiring a wider range of content.

The strategy seems to be a middle way between posting ‘viral’ UGC material and offering ‘feature’ movie and TV programming, investing in programming rather than spending huge sums to license it.

YouTube’s changes are expected to be phased in over time, starting before the end of 2011, people familiar with the matter said. The site is currently hiring people to help with the initiatives, they suggest.

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