Beyond Cat Videos: YouTube Bets On Production Studio 'Playgrounds' : All Tech Considered The online video giant has just opened a gleaming new production studio in Manhattan. It's part of an effort to attract new viewers — and ultimately compete with companies like Netflix and Hulu.
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Beyond Cat Videos: YouTube Bets On Production Studio 'Playgrounds'

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Beyond Cat Videos: YouTube Bets On Production Studio 'Playgrounds'

Beyond Cat Videos: YouTube Bets On Production Studio 'Playgrounds'

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

YouTube, the world's most popular video streaming site, has been spending a lot of money in recent years. It sees itself as being in competition with the likes of Netflix, Hulu and even traditional television. Today, YouTube opened up a glitzy new production facility in Manhattan. Carole Zimmer reports the new studio is a big part of YouTube's strategy to attract new viewers.

(SOUNDBITE OF POWER DRILL)

CAROLE ZIMMER, BYLINE: At YouTube Space New York, carpenters were still busy putting the finishing touches on during a recent visit. It's a sprawling two-floor production facility where every inch can be used as a potential set. The state-of-the-art studios are a far cry from the bedrooms where many YouTube creators used to shoot their videos.

ADAM RELIS: I'll show you up here.

ZIMMER: Adam Relis, head of the New York facility, points to a portion of the floor covered with Lucite.

RELIS: Underneath our feet are 300,000 linear feet of cable. To give you some perspective, that's 187 times the Empire State Building.

ZIMMER: YouTube Space New York also contains a reception area that doubles as a screening room, three studio production spaces and an area called BrandLab, designed to bring Madison Avenue to YouTube's door. It's all reserved for YouTube creators. Those who have over 5,000 subscribers can shoot here for free.

LANCE PODELL: I think a playground's a great way to describe it.

ZIMMER: Lance Podell, global head of YouTube Spaces, says creators will be free to make whatever videos they want.

PODELL: My first dream is that New York opens, again, it's full from day one and that folks respond to it and immediately show up, saying, I've got my thinking cap on. I've brought three other creators I know. And we have a really great idea, and we'd like to try it here.

ZIMMER: YouTube has also invested in production studios in LA, London and Tokyo. More than 6,000 videos have been created in those spaces. But YouTube can't point to a single video produced in any of its facilities that has gone viral. No matter, YouTube says the spaces help to expand the horizons of its creators. They're part of the company's evolution since Google acquired the video sharing site for $1.7 billion in 2006.

JAMES MCQUIVEY: They're seeing the billions of dollars that cable networks and broadcasters have. And they're saying, I want some of that billion. I have a fair shot at it. But in order to have some of what they've got, I've got to do some of what they do. That means building studios, and it means funding producers.

ZIMMER: James McQuivey, media analyst at Forrester Research, points out those producers manage to help pull in about 1 billion unique visitors a month. It is generally thought that YouTube has been profitable since 2011, though it is hard to come up with specific numbers because Google doesn't break out YouTube's earnings. McQuivey says building production facilities is part of YouTube's plan to increase revenue by getting viewers to stay longer.

MCQUIVEY: The cat videos have been phenomenal at getting people to know YouTube, to maybe even come back and to spend a few minutes there a day. But they're not going to get you to spend 15, then 30, then 60 minutes a day on YouTube, which is what YouTube ultimately wants.

ZIMMER: But will sophisticated production values add to YouTube's bottom line? McQuivey says that's besides the point.

MCQUIVEY: Most of that content probably would have been produced elsewhere anyway. But in the end, if everyone is getting together in the studio, making something that is successful, well, that all works toward YouTube's eventual vision of the future.

ZIMMER: McQuivey also says opening a production facility in New York sends a clear signal to the television industry on its own turf, that YouTube is ready to partner with producers who are ready to join its digital revolution. For NPR News, I'm Carole Zimmer in New York.

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