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YouTube’s Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl will exit the company next year after 12 years as a senior executive, during which he helped to establish the service’s identity as a home for both traditional media brands and amateur creators.
In a memo to staff announcing his departure, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said that he was departing to “start the next chapter in his career,” noting that Kyncl helped to mainstream use of the term “YouTuber.”
As of October 3, Kyncl’s duties will be taken over by Mary Ellen Coe, who currently leads Google’s “Customer Solutions” team. (They oversee advertising for small and mid-market businesses.)
Kyncl’s departure closes a chapter in YouTube history, marking a further move away from the Alphabet-owned company generating its own content and programming in house. A former HBO and Netflix executive who was brought in 2010, Kyncl was initially tasked with bringing in more conventional programming, mainstream celebrities and media brands to the platform.
Though the service’s reputation initially had been built on “viral videos”–content created by members of the public on their own and shared via YouTube – these were less than ideal from an advertising revenue standpoint. It’s harder to get someone to watch ads before a 30 second clip as opposed to a 10 minute video, and many sponsors were hesitant to fund programming created by unknowns who could prove unpredictable and difficult to control.
These efforts took various forms over the years. In 2011, Kyncl’s team spent $100 million funding celebrity-based YouTube channels from creators like Tony Hawk and Madonna. In 2014, YouTube first launched its “premium” ad-free service, then rebranded its collective subscription services—including YouTube Music–as “YouTube Red” in 2015. At this point, Kyncl switched up his approach, funding both original shows and films from outside producers alongside new projects from YouTube’s own line-up of in-house creators and stars.
YouTube still has a Premium service to this day, but the attempt to create a genuine Netflix rival that sustained its own original content ecosystem ultimately collapsed. Users were sometimes confused by the offering, and the differences between the YouTube Red, YouTube Premium, YouTube TV and YouTube Music packages. YouTube-native creators sometimes struggled to make videos that were seen as sufficiently advertiser-friendly to generate meaningful revenue, and sponsors frequently objected to content and pulled their spending from the service.
Despite producing a few well-received original shows–including “Cobra Kai,” which ultimately found appreciative fans on Netflix–YouTube was unable to generate enough buzz to pull in a significant mainstream audience. Even the best and most well-reviewed YouTube series–shows like “Wayne” and “Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television”–weren’t enough to put YouTube in the center of the streaming conversation.
Ultimately, YouTube shut down production of its own self-funded original content, favoring its traditional model of splitting ad revenue with independent creators on finished videos. Alphabet’s current attempts to work with Hollywood studios and traditional media companies tend to focus on technological solutions; ways to bring their shows and films into platforms like YouTube and YouTube TV more effectively and cleanly.
As streaming services continue to consolidate, it was perhaps inevitable that YouTube would have to forge its own path, rather than competing with full-time dedicated competitors like HBO Max and Disney Plus. And with the recent growth of YouTube’s Shorts format, it seems that they’re a more viable rival for TikTok at this point regardless.— Lon Harris
The sponsor of today's newsletter is Fenwick, one of the world's top law firms focused on technology and life sciences, including leading games, digital media, entertainment, blockchain and NFT practices. Attorneys in Fenwick’s Santa Monica office and nationwide represent more than 1,000 greater Los Angeles-based startups, established companies and venture capital investors in corporate, IP, litigation, regulatory and tax matters.
The company behind the Snapchat app is planning to lay off up to 6,400 employees–about 20% of its total workforce–in the near future, according to anonymous sources cited by The Verge.
NFT collections like Cool Cats and Bored Apes Yacht Club have essentially become media franchises. So it was only a matter of time before someone came up with a tried-and-true idea in franchise making: bring these disparate characters together in one show.
Social media backlash accused the avatar's creators of spreading negative stereotypes and exploiting the real-life rappers. Almost as soon as it was announced, Capitol Records ended its partnership with the agency that created the character.
Santa Monica-based Outpost is trying to make the small satellite market more sustainable, by making them reusable. The company announced Tuesday it raised $7.1 million in a seed round led by Moonshots Capital.
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What We’re Reading...
- Sony Music sues Triller, alleging copyright infringement.
- Caltech is listed as #1 “best value” college in Niche’s ranking of U.S. schools.
- Oracle reportedly starts auditing TikTok's algorithm.
- Avatar startup Genies launches an NFT fashion marketplace.
- Yotta Energy gets $1.2 million grant to pilot a solar storage project in a low-income Santa Ana housing complex.
- Sameday Health will begin testing for monkeybox in some of its California clinics, including five in L.A.