YouTube has cut off funding to the Wall Street Journal and Reuters that formed part of its $150 million dollar plan to help launch more than 100 premium channels. The termination of the one-year deals, which has resulted in contractors losing their positions at Reuters, comes even as the Google-owned company has said it would double down on its investment in original channels.
PandoDaily has learned that at least 15 editorial and production contractors at Reuters who have been working on the YouTube channel over the past year have not had their contracts renewed, meaning they will have to find new work. The staff were informed of the funding cut about a month ago.
The YouTube unit at Reuters consisted of 18 people, most of whom were freelancers and contractors. Today was their last day on the job. The cutbacks follow Tuesday’s news of nine editorial layoffs at the news organization, a move attributed to the company’s need to focus attention on its “global cost structure.”
In January last year, Reuters heralded the deal by launching Reuters TV, a YouTube channel featuring 10 news, commentary, and analysis programs. The channel has been hosted on Reuters’ own site and on a dedicated YouTube page. It’s unclear whether or not it will continue.
Several Reuters representatives were unable to offer comment, or didn’t respond immediately to requests lodged by email and phone. Reuters’ global head of programming Dan Colarusso said by email from London that he was unable to discuss the deal, but didn’t elaborate.
It’s not clear how the Wall Street Journal has been affected. A spokesperson said the company doesn’t disclose its conversations with third parties, but that WSJ Live – its on-demand video channel – will continue to be available on YouTube. “[W]e look forward to continuing to work closely with them,” the spokesperson said.
SB Nation, another channel that received money from YouTube as part of the original channels investment, may also have been affected. A spokesperson for Vox Media, which owns SB Nation, wouldn’t comment on the details of the partnership because of a non-disclosure agreement, but said the two companies are “still partners.”
The funding cuts may not have been much of a surprise to the Wall Street Journal and Reuters. In November, YouTube told AllThingsD that the company would re-invest in only 40 percent of the 160 or so channels with which it had initially forged an agreement. Jamie Byrne, YouTube’s director of content strategy said the company was most concerned about how much “watch time” each company generated and how efficient they had been with their programming budgets.
The Nieman Journalism Lab recently reported that the Wall Street Journal’s YouTube channel often attracted viewerships in the 500,000 to 1,000,000 view range, while Reuters was between 200,000 and 400,000. Some of the highest-rating YouTube channels, however, pull in between 3-7 million views in a typical week.
YouTube hasn’t offered a clear reason why it has decided to cut funding for Reuters and the Wall Street Journal, but other channels, such as those run by The Young Turks, SourceFed, and Vice, survived the cuts.
A YouTube spokesperson wouldn’t comment on whether or not the funding decisions represented a change in strategy. In a statement, a company spokesperson said: “[O]ur goal continues to be to help all of our partners succeed on YouTube, with or without our advanced funding.” That statements suggests that the initial investment in some of these channels might have been seen as a kind of “stimulus” deal to help bring them to life. It’s not clear that was the understanding of the news organizations or the contractors providing the content.
The spokesperson said 7,000 hours of news-related video are uploaded to YouTube every day. “We look forward to continuing to support news content and have seen time and time again how valuable it is on our platform whether it’s during the 2012 elections or Hurricane Sandy.”
[Photo by Rego]