Ran Harnevo, who leads The AOL On Network, made a surprise announcement on the AOL Blog at the beginning of New York Advertising Week. He said, “Our entire original video content library will be distributed across 22 curated channels and monetized on YouTube.”
He added, “Viewers will be able to enjoy nearly 20,000 videos from their favorite AOL brands like The Huffington Post, TechCrunch and Moviefone; original series Beyond the Battlefield and Little Women, Big Cars; and vertical content on topics Style and Home. Ad sales will be handled by AOL's sales team, opening up a new revenue stream for the company and delivering a significant amount of brand-safe inventory for advertisers.”
As Harnevo pointed out, this is “very significant news.” According to comScore’s Video Metrix for August 2012, YouTube's parent company, Google, and AOL are the two largest video content properties by number of video streams per month, which means this deal brings together the two largest video properties on the web.
But, if AOL was the second largest video content property, why did it do the deal?
According to comScore, Google sites, driven primarily by video viewing at YouTube.com, had 150,198,000 total unique viewers in August, who watched 13,772,310,000 videos for 443.4 minutes per viewer. By comparison, AOL Inc. had 45,685,000 total unique viewers that month, who watched 725,166,000 videos for 62.8 minutes per viewer.
In other words, YouTube reaches more than three times more unique viewers, who watch almost 19 times more videos for over seven times more minutes per month. If you were to represent their respective shares of the online video market, it would resemble a penny-farthing bicycle.
Nevertheless, AOL has come a long way in a short time. In his post, Harnevo said, “As many of you know, video has been a key part of our overall strategy over the last few years, and since launching The AOL On Network in April of this year, we’ve seen tremendous traction in the marketplace. In August, our reach surpassed 60 million unique visitors for the first time ever, and we were ranked #1 in the Auto, Business, Style, Home, Health, Travel, Technology and Food categories.”
So, putting AOL’s entire original video content library on 22 curated YouTube channels is “very significant news.”
It’s a strong endorsement of YouTube’s new channel strategy, which was unveiled a year ago on the YouTube Blog by Robert Kyncl, Global Head of Content Partnerships. On Oct. 28, 2011, he said, “even more talented creators and original entertainment will soon join YouTube’s existing channel lineup, including channels created by well-known personalities and content producers from the TV, film, music, news, and sports fields, as well as some of the most innovative up-and-coming media companies in the world and some of YouTube’s own existing partners.”
At the time, many in the mainstream media wrote stories about the new YouTube channels being created by well-known personalities, including Madonna, Ashton Kutcher, and Shaquille O'Neal. But Search Engine Watch was one of the few to observe that YouTube had done more than round up the usual suspects to create new channels.
This means that AOL will be joining some of the biggest names in media including Hearst, Lionsgate, Reuters, Slate, and Pitchfork. YouTube’s new channel strategy has been an immense success so far, with 20 of their premium channels garnering a million views per week, according to an article by Mallory Russell last month in Advertising Age.
So, the news that AOL is bringing its video library to a whole new audience of viewers on YouTube is a major milestone in the online video industry. The only bigger news would be if Viacom International announced that it was dropping its suit against YouTube for copyright infringement and would be putting all of Viacom's programming, including “SpongeBob SquarePants” and “The Daily Show”, on curated and monetized channels on YouTube.
No, Viacom isn’t likely to announce that anytime soon. But that’s about the only story that would top this week’s announcement by AOL. It’s that significant.