YouTube officially turned on YouTube Live, the Google video-sharing unit's bid to stream concerts, sporting events and interviews with local celebrities and the like.
Consumers will access YouTube Live on its own Web page, and can subscribe to YouTube live-streaming partners to be notified of upcoming live streams on a customized homepage. YouTube partners in good standing will be able to access the YouTube Live streaming platform to begin broadcasting content.
"The goal is to provide thousands of partners with the capability to live stream from their channels in the months ahead," said YouTube Product Manager Joshua Siegel in a blog post. "In order to ensure a great live stream viewing experience, we'll roll this offering out incrementally over time."
It's YouTube's broader goal that is crucial. YouTube has made its name these last seven years with the catch-phrase "Broadcast Yourself."
With 2 billion page views a day and many of YouTube's 500 million users uploading 35 hours of video to the Website each minute, Broadcast Yourself is gradually morphing into Broadcast Everything.
Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal noted that YouTube is refashioning the Website as a broadcast platform pushing original content, ideally to make the site more friendly for viewing on living room televisions instead of just computer and smartphone screens.
Specifically, the Journal said the site wants to refocus around broadcast channels for arts and sports, along with several hours of professionally produced original programming. YouTube could spend $100 million to commission low-cost content intended exclusively for the Web.
YouTube certainly has the tools and talent in place to do this after acquiring Next New Networks in March to help its content partners shoot and package video content.
A YouTube spokesman downplayed broadcast channel strategy as relayed by the Journal but didn't deny its ambition, noting:
"YouTube saw incredible growth in 2010 and we're excited about the future. We are always working on updating the site and improving the general user experience and interface. We do not, however, have any plans to dramatically change the site's design in the near future."
A source familiar with YouTube's plans said the site's unabashed goal is to evolve from users watching 15 minutes of YouTube content per day to consuming 5 hours of the site per day, boosting the site's ad-serving opportunities.
This would indicate YouTube is gunning for many of the same viewers currently wed to conventional TV broadcast stations such as CBS, ABC and NBC, as well as cable television channels HBO, Cinemax and Showtime. Hulu, Amazon.com and Netflix are also targeting users with Web video content.
Several signs point to the original content broadcast direction. Two years ago, YouTube announced a new destination for television shows and an improved destination for movies on YouTube, where partners like Crackle, CBS, MGM, Lionsgate, Starz show content.
More recently, Google launched its Google TV service last fall, with YouTube touting its Leanback application on Google TV as a way to show users continuous video clips without forcing them to click a button after each video has played.
YouTube in March also began airing "Girl Walks into a Bar," its "first feature-length film created specifically for the Internet," which people can watch free on the site's YouTube Screening Room channel.
Now, of course, comes Live streaming, which will provide even more broadcast content for users. It's important to note that YouTube isn't producing the content the way broadcast networks and cable channels do.
Rather, it is serving as an outlet for others to do so -- a massively scaling medium for Internet-fueled TV in the living room. YouTube will make money from this endeavor the way it always has: by serving millions of display ads against the content.
Imagine what the ad-serving YouTube could do if consumers are watching 5 hours of YouTube a day. It's worked for TV broadcasters and advertisers, and YouTube wants a piece as consumers' Web-based broadcast station of choice.