Published: 08.28 Europe/London, April 7, 2011

YouTube is to restyle its content around a series of ‘channels’ as the Google-owned video sharing website seeks to take advantage of the increasing numbers of connected TVs that bring online video to the living room.

The Wall Street Journal, quoting people familiar with the matter, said YouTube was looking to compete with both broadcast and multichannel television. In doing so it hoped that people would stay with the website for longer and provide a more valuable platform for advertisers. Average user sessions on YouTube normally last from five to ten minutes, but long-form viewers can increase their time with the service for up to two hours.

Previous attempts to extend viewing times resulted in the creation of YouTube Leanback. Here, the computer keyboard acts as a virtual remote control, allowing viewers to skip to the next video, or scroll to find out what else might be available.

Around 20 of the planned channels would feature “several hours” of professionally produced content while other channels would be assembled from content already on the site. WSJ said $100 million would be spent on creating low cost content especially for the web.

So far cable and IPTV networks have been complicit in helping YouTube into the home, not wanting to let the new connected or smart TVs gain the upper hand, and effectively treating YouTube as just another channel. Broadcast networks and production companies have been less charitable, criticising the previous lack of investment in content.

However, this has not stopped broadcasters from agreeing to let their content be carried by YouTube. BBC Worldwide and Channel 4 both have YouTube channels and it is claimed that were it to be a channel itself, YouTube would hold 13th position in the UK market.