YouTube began as a platform for quirky, user-generated videos and is trying to morph into the go-to place to see high quality content. Today, the site completes a major part of a redesign it started rolling out a couple of months ago. The goal is to visually encourage viewers to subscribe to channels they like, rather than randomly click on videos.
The redesign is connected to YouTube’s push for more professional content. The Google-owned site spent $100 million last fall to transition into the world of hiqh-quality entertainment. The money went to both mainstream media titans and small media companies, like Machinima, headquartered in West Hollywood.
Machinima is a mash-up between the words machine and cinema. The term refers to the process where video games are manipulated to create animation. But, Machinima Inc is the mash-up between the multi-billion dollar gaming industry and YouTube.
The network’s online videos range from game industry news, to live-action web-series, to strategies for better game play. CEO of Machinima Inc, Allen DeBevoise, says it’s perfectly fine if you don’t care what gaming acronyms FPS or MMORPG stand for, you’re not his core audience.
“We have almost 125 million people that come to us a month,” says DeBevoise, “and its gamer types, I mean its very male, tech centric, gamer type stuff and gaming doesn’t do very well on television.”
But, DeBevoise says that YouTube is another story and the social networking video site is a natural fit for gamers. “The modern gamers really did social activity before Faceboook or anybody, this is the audience that lead the path with interactive entertainment.”
DeBevoise started his YouTube experiment, four years ago. Back then, Machinima had 19 employees, today it has 160 and its YouTube channel has 4 million subscribers and over 3 billion video views.
“I’m a part of a company that’s growing so freaking fast!” says new hire, Beau Ryan. Ryan was brought on to search the web for content that gamers are likely to watch and then recruit those video-makers. “A lot of people, when they think Machinima, they think games,” says Ryan, “but we’re broadening into more entertainment stuff: sketch comedy, animation, live action.”
Bite Me is one of Machinima’s live action web-series where three gamer dorks stumble upon the zombie apocalypse. The unlikely trio become ace-zombie killers and heroes thanks to their video game prowess. The comedy/action has racked up over 15 million views on YouTube and Lionsgate Entertainment got in on the killing and partnered with Machinima for season 2, which premieres this week on both YouTube and cable's FearNet.
While Machinima Inc is poised to cash-in on what CEO Allen DeBevoise sees as a symbiotic relationship between gamer and YouTube, some analysts say, we’re not there yet. James McQuivey, a Web-video expert and the Vice President at Forrester Research says advertisers aren’t lining up to pour money into YouTube content.
“That’s probably the hardest part of this whole equation,” says McQuivey, “getting the advertisers to start trusting the fact that five minutes of someone’s brain and attention on YouTube can be just as good and possibly better than five minutes of their time on broadcast television.” McQuivey adds that a video with 2 million views isn’t going to bring in more than 10,000 dollars in ad revenue.
But DeBevoise says advertisers are starting to look to YouTube as a way to reach his network’s highly-prized demographic — 18-34 year old males willing to burn cash. This is the demo that lined up to buy Activision Blizzard’s "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3," this past November. Modern Warfare 3 made a billion dollars in a little over two weeks.
Today, Machinima’s ad-clients include videogame developer, Electronic Arts, and movie studios: Paramount, Universal and Sony. For Machinima Inc, taking a chance on hard-core gamers and YouTube might just be a winning strategy, but it’s too soon to tell if its an epic win.