Apr 032012

It’s finally happened: YouTube has taken its first steps into becoming a true provider of video entertainment. I know what you’re thinking. “Alex, you dumb schmuck, there are plenty of cool videos on YouTube already!” And you’re right. But now there are YouTube channels — run by media personalities and icons, they offer professionally-produced material instead of cat videos. It may be yet another nail in cable television’s coffin.

(Read more of my thoughts on YouTube channels after the jump)

It might not seem like much at first, but with these new channels, there are short (most seem to be along the lines of 5 to 10 minutes long) videos hitting YouTube on a weekly basis. Just like real television shows. And they offer some interesting stuff, too. I was checking out the Nerdist channel (run by Chris Hardwick) and Geek and Sundry (run by Felicia Day).

Each has different types of entertainment available. I enjoyed “Weird Al” Yankovic “interviewing” celebrities on his show, Face to Face on the Nerdist channel. And Chris Hardwick’s All Star Celebrity Bowling was fun, but might be more interesting if he can get actual celebrities on. (In the premier episode, his team faces off against a team from another YouTube channel, Machinima.) But bringing back Dr. Tran is particularly awesome, as is the very brief segment, Cute Things Exploding.

For me, Felicia Day’s channel seems to be a little more interesting. I enjoyed her personal show, The Flog, more than Chris Hardwick’s. I think that’s because Chris Hardwick’s bowling show condensed an entire game into a little more than six minutes and didn’t really play to his strengths (read: he didn’t do much). On her show, Felicia Day went to a blacksmith’s shop and made something. Also, she’s just adorable.

Plus, Geek and Sundry has Wil Wheaton playing board games with celebrities. He snagged Grant Imahara for the first episode to play Small World (not my favorite game, but fun). Honestly, it’s a more-entertaining version of Chris Hardwick’s bowling. It’s also a good way to introduce someone to a game you may want them to play in the future.

Anyway, why is this awesome? Because it takes the concept of YouTube — giving everyone an outlet for their video content — and takes it to the next level. I would not be surprised if, within a few years, major networks create their own YouTube channels and start using them to test out new shows. It could become an outlet for short but experimental television. It’s something I’ve admired about the BBC for a long time: its seasons are much shorter than American television, but there are a lot of interesting and somewhat risky shows on the BBC.

I’d look forward to the day when SyFy creates a channel and tries a season of a new show there. It would cost the network a lot less and would be a great way for it to gauge interest in the show without committing to it completely. If it flops on YouTube, it’s not that huge of a loss. But if it succeeds, it could become the next big thing.

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