Google is looking to take YouTube, which it purchased in 2006, to new heights. Specifically, those heights total about 100 million dollars, which Google will use to entice well-established celebrities to create their own YouTube channels. On these channels, celebrities will maintain their own shows, typically only a few minutes long per episode, and will have sole ownership of them. While this isn’t necessarily a new concept and there are celebrities who are already certainly doing something similar, Google’s funding and some advertising could absolutely blow this idea up. This news also comes not long after Yahoo! and AOL teamed up on a similar endeavor, though Google and YouTube are undoubtedly the bigger names at play here.

YouTube + Celebrity Channel = $
Everyone’s heard the old adage, “You get back what you put in.” Google has earmarked $100 million for celebrity YouTube channels, which, all things considered, isn’t necessarily a dangerous amount of money for them. Their plan is to get 20 celebrities on board at $5 million a piece. That cool 5 mil would cover salaries and any production costs accrued. In return, Google would use premium advertising to make the money back. With enough big-name celebrities maintaining their own shows and posting other exclusive original content, these celebrity channels could gain quite a following, thus generating a pretty hefty revenue.

Though it’s unclear which, if any, celebrities have already been approached about taking part, think of the possibilities. What kind of return could they get on a Justin Bieber channel alone? All content would be original, but would celebrities remain in context or do something new? If they do something new, what kind of effect does that have on the channel? Say Paula Deen comes on board. We all know her for sticks of butter and her warm demeanor on The Food Network, but what if she decided her show would focus on dress-making? What if Mark Zuckerberg wanted to maintain a channel about the fine nuances of stamp collecting? I have no idea if Paula Deen makes dresses or Mark Zuckerberg collects stamps, but the point is this: would people watch that?

The rules, so to speak, and guidelines aren’t very clear yet, but one thing is nearly certain: with the right choices, Google has the ability to give television as we know it now a run for its money.

The Independent YouTube Star
YouTube celebrity channels must also be considered from the independent YouTube star’s point of view. Many took to the “Broadcast Yourself” slogan in the site’s early days and have been producing their own original shows for years. They’re not world-renowned, but they have gained quite a following and generated their own buzz. So much so, in fact, that some now have partnerships with Google and YouTube and receive checks.

What happens to these independent stars if Google dangles a carrot on a string and tries to lure their audiences away in order to attract more attention to the celebrity channels? A lot of YouTube’s indie stars feel that Google should do more to support them — the people who produce their own shows because they want to and not necessarily just because they’re getting paid to do it. I wouldn’t necessarily disagree with that, but from a business perspective, you can see why Google would invest more in “well-established celebrities” for their major endeavors.

In my mind, there are a couple of ways to think of this, depending on whether your glass is half-full or half-empty.

Google has the chance to play Wal Mart to the independent star’s locally-owned shop (read: stomping them out of business). That’s if your glass is half-empty.

If your glass is half-full, though, think about independent musicians. Sure, they may never see the heights of fame that well-established celebrities will, but they have a fiercely loyal fan base that supports them no matter what. Indie artists attract all kinds of people who enjoy stepping off the well-beaten mainstream path, and those fans are more than happy to keep spreading the word. It might be a tough game for those who have spent years building a fan base, especially at first. But my thought — and what I sincerely hope is true — is that the loyal viewers these indie stars have gained over the years will stick with them.

As details become available, it will be interesting to see how Google balances the indie stars who helped make YouTube what it is today with the well-established celebrities who have the power to re-shape or re-brand a YouTube for tomorrow.

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