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Should TV Embrace YouTube? USA Network Says Yes With Caveats

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YouTube is the dominant player in the online video space, so should the broadcast and cable networks embrace it? Speaking on the panel “Online Distribution and Monetization Strategies for the TV Industry,” at Streaming Media West 2013, Jessica Sutherland, vice president of content development at USA Network, said that YouTube is a valuable partner for broadcasters. That’s the on-the-record answer, anyway.

“The official answer is YouTube is a huge and valuable partner to us,” Sutherland said. USA has YouTube channels and uses them to seed out promotional content. For longer videos -- full episodes, webisodes -- it relies on Hulu. “In terms of eyeballs, you can’t not work with YouTube,” she added.

That was the official answer. For the unofficial answer “We can talk later,” she joked.

The place of YouTube in broadcast and cable online video strategies was a prickly topic for the panelists. YouTube takes 45 percent of all advertising revenues, complained David Tochterman, head of digital media for Innovative Artists. For networks that have a 70/30 split with original content creators, that doesn’t leave a lot. To fully monetize content, it’s crucial to get viewers away from YouTube, he said.

USA Network is putting its online energy into creating original content that’s derived from its most popular shows.

“For us, we’re always looking at not only what our fans want, which is generally more of the characters they love,” Sutherland said, “but I think we’re generally looking at a variety of different things when we create content.” USA partners with brands when creating online originals and engages fans in social activities. The network has found that each show is different, and that what works for one show won’t necessarily work for others.

“The expectation for digital content is that it look at feel exactly like content you would see on your TV at home,” Sutherland said. “To make it feel legitimate for a fan, it has to mirror the show as much as possible.”

When creating derivative content, so many elements need to go into the final product, such as brand participation and social engagement activities, that Sutherland said she’s not always sure the productions break even. But that’s almost beside the point, since the online originals exist to boost the on-air shows.

“It’s all in service of building tune-in, and that’s what we’re really trying to do,” Sutherland said.

Scroll down to watch the full panel discussion.


Online Distribution and Monetization Strategies for the TV Industry

The internet has disrupted nearly every facet of the TV industry, from programming to distribution to audience. And while the networks still rule the living room, many of them are struggling to find their footing online. In this session, we explore some of the distribution options for those that want to bring their content to online audiences. The panelists delve into the pros and cons of sharing content with YouTube, subscription-based services and syndication networks. They also explore what kind of content—short form vs. long form—makes sense for each outlet.

Moderator: Peter Csathy, CEO, Manatt Digital Media
Speaker: Jessica Sutherland, VP, Content Development, USA Network
Speaker: Paul Cochrane, Head of Entertainment and Lifestyles, Yahoo! Studios
Speaker: David Tochterman, Head of Digital Media, Innovative Artists
Speaker: Mara Winokur, SVP, Starz Digital Media

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