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Google cash brings all the cold TV leftovers you can eat to YouTube

Mockney belly-robber, netmums and mouldy old BBC gumble

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For years, some pundits have touted YouTube as the future of TV - so you may be interested to see what this future might look like. The picture is now clearer after Google confirmed funding for 60 UK telly producers to make YouTube clips. And so the future of television will look like… a low-budget cable channel serving up repeats and knock-offs with a sprinkling of magazine brands.

Among the UK TV production companies tapped up for original programming are, er, Jamie Oliver, Netmums, the Guinness Book of Records and the glossy mag for ageing ravers Mixmag. The BBC and Endemol are also beneficiaries.

Google began investing in original material last year - although the definition of "original" is somewhat elastic - judge for yourself by looking at the results.

While YouTube touted the new channels as a place where producers could release something they couldn't show elsewhere, it isn't clear the producers themselves are on script. For example, the BBC will have three new "channels", but it's careful to describe the material as "originated content" rather than "original content".

This is a bizarre formulation; all content originated somewhere. So BBC Worldwide is using its three YouTube channels to show repeats: old comedy such as The Likely Lads appears on one, adding to its "existing selection of over 8,000 clips". This new content includes things such as the last series of Top Gear.

It's hardly the "virtuous circle" that we talked about here: new technology creates new media formats and experimentation, generating wealth and spreading entertainment around.

When Google acquired YouTube in 2006, it was well aware that the site was a "rogue enabler of content theft" whose "business model is completely sustained by pirated content" - in the Google executives' words. Something had to change, eventually.

YouTube has found a place for niches, such as teenagers broadcasting to each other, and there's nothing wrong with that - but it has failed to upset any media incumbents or stretch the boundaries of the arts: this material is really recorded communication rather than content.

There is a place, however, where distributors have successfully invested in new programming and seen creativity flourish: that place is cable channels investing in original drama in the form of $3m-per-hour shows such as Breaking Bad and The Wire. ®

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