YouTube ventures into live event webcasting

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - YouTube will venture into webcasting later this month, in an effort to take the video sharing Web site’s popularity to a new level by showcasing the talent behind its most viewed videos.

Jamie Hyneman (L) and Adam Savage of the television series "Mythbusters". The men will be appearing at "YouTube Live" in San Francisco on November 22, 2008. REUTERS/Courtesy of YouTube/Handout

The site, owned by search giant Google Inc., has matured from Web start-up and video fad to a site with loyal fans. But as any good TV industry executive will say, it needs to begin producing new and fresh content to keep its audience.

So, on November 22 in San Francisco, it is launching “YouTube Live,” a show featuring well-known stars such as rapper Will.i.Am and singer Katy Perry and YouTube sensations like 20-year-old Esmee Denters, who posted video of herself covering popular songs and became a star on the World Wide Web.

YouTube executives said the show will feature performers who are popular with the site’s users, a community that has already held unofficial events and whom the company wants to reach by streaming a live show for the first time.

“The value of YouTube is we’ve created this platform that’s been driven by the community, so this is in reaction to that,” said YouTube spokesman Chris Di Cesare “Having a community event that the community values benefits all involved.”

Since its inception in 2005, YouTube has been a repository for all kinds of Internet videos, from snippets of TV shows to off-beat demonstrations of skills such as cup-stacking to serious campaign ads in the recent U.S. presidential election.

But as other sites have found, Web surfers can be a fickle bunch of fans and keeping them on your site -- which is what advertisers pay for -- is a daunting task.


Taking their cues from the TV industry, Internet giants AOL, MySpace and Yahoo! have webcast original programing in recent years. What seems to work best, so far, has been live concerts by the likes of Madonna and The Pretenders.

Yahoo! Music landed car company Nissan as a sponsor of its tape-delayed concert series, called Nissan Live Sets, with the average concert receiving 2 million streams, the company said. The concerts are also broadcast on MTV cable channel Palladia.

For its part, YouTube said videos posted by the roughly 50 entertainers and other talents on the bill for “YouTube Live” have been viewed online more than 2.5 billion times, which the company said accounts for a big part of the site’s hits.

“These are the personalities that people at home have tuned in to watch,” Di Cesare said.

Those personalities include Discovery television show “Mythbusters,” Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, who will attend the “YouTube Live” event.

They will demonstrate a feat that has become a sensation on YouTube, the workings of a giant robot they designed to shoot paint at a canvas and create a version of the Mona Lisa, by Renaissance artist Leonardo da Vinci.

Singer Katy Perry, whose hit song “I Kissed a Girl” became an international chart-topper over the summer, will open the show. Perry, whose label is Capitol Music Group, posts videos at her own “channel” on YouTube.

Denters, the Dutch singer, is a budding star who rose to fame on the video Web site. More than 111 million times users have clicked on videos of her singing into a webcam, a homemade success story that eventually had pop star Justin Timberlake signing Denters to his Tennman Records label.

“It’s been a crazy story, and I have all that to thank from YouTube,” she said.

YouTube said it intends to hold follow-up events to “YouTube Live,” but it gave no details on those plans.

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte