U. of California TV Station Will Develop Original Content for YouTube

YouTube’s continuing effort to put more original videos online has expanded beyond high-profile celebrities and news outlets to include a university television station. In exchange for a $300,000 grant to the station to produce original videos, YouTube will try to recoup its investment using the oldest money-making tool in television: advertising.

The University of California system’s television station, UCTV, received the grant from YouTube to produce original videos, according to Lynn Burnstan, the station’s managing director. The agreement, which gave birth to an online channel called UCTV Prime, is the first of its kind between YouTube and a university.

The new channel came online March 1 and produces 15 minutes of fresh videos each week. UCTV Prime, like YouTube’s other original channels, features ads on its pages and in its videos.

Ms. Burnstan said the grant will allow UCTV Prime to produce videos quickly, and the new channel’s Web site will complement the videos with audience-engagement tools like blog posts and viewer polls.

“We’ve been gatherers and disseminators for the past decade, and this lets us move into more of a create mode,” she said. The new videos are much shorter than the hour-long lectures that populate some university channels, Ms. Burnstan added.

UCTV Prime’s introduction is part of YouTube’s growing support for content that “isn’t necessarily the cat playing the piano, but might be more thoughtful,” she said.

So far, the programming on the new channel has included “Naked Art,” a four-part original special on public art, and “Prime: Cuts,” which covers research developments. More recently, the channel introduced “Prime: Vote,” which features commentary and interviews with University of California faculty members about the upcoming election. Ms. Burnstan added that the channel will be flexible about its future programming, because “we really want to be able to respond to the news and respond to what’s going on,” she said.

UCTV Prime may be supported by advertising, but viewing those advertisements isn’t mandatory for everyone. University network administrators can turn on YouTube for Schools, a setting that limits viewable videos to only those on YouTube’s EDU platform. If a viewer is watching UCTV Prime videos at an institution that has enabled YouTube for Schools, the advertisements will not be displayed, according to a YouTube spokesperson.

The announcement comes at a time when demand for educational videos is booming: YouTube’s spokesperson said that views of educational content on the network doubled from the beginning of 2011 to the end of the year. The nonprofit group TED recently introduced its own educational videos in another YouTube partnership.

UCTV Prime has fewer than 700 subscribers so far, but Ms. Burnstan said it features videos that will likely attract some of UCTV’s 50,000 other YouTube subscribers and potentially even new audiences.

“This stuff is shorter, it’s more episodic, and it builds one to the other,” she said.

[Creative Commons licensed Flickr photo by videocrab]

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