Seth Shapiro\'s Business Innovation Blog

On October 28, YouTube launched its long-discussed subscription service, YouTube Red. Priced at $9.99—the same monthly price as Netflix—the service features ad-free videos from a few of YouTube’s biggest stars including Lilly Singh, Toby Turner, the Fine Bros, and especially PewDiePie (who has now delivered over 10 billion views, and reportedly earned $12 million last year). The launch offering will include a combination of around a dozen series and a few long-form pieces.

To put this in perspective: YouTube now receives 300 hours of uploads every minute. That’s 18,000 full days of video added every day. Once an American pastime, YouTube has become a global powerhouse, localized in over 60 countries and over 60 languages.

YouTube is ubiquitous, but it’s always been free—more a free utility than a pay video network. Getting people to subscribe to another service is always a brutal task—so Red has a big mountain to climb. What should they do to prepare for it?

They should study the last great era of broadcasting, and a team that faced many of the same problems—and won.

NBC, 1990: “ Number Four in a Three-way Race”

In 1990, Warren Littlefield stared down the barrel of a gun. He had landed the job he had always wanted: he was President of NBC Entertainment. But he had gotten the job in a very mean season.

NBC’s glory days were ending. Former hits Cosby, L.A. Law and Golden Girls had all faded. As Littlefield told me in an interview this summer:

We were sitting there and it’s probably realistic to say, well, L.A. Law and Hill Street Blues had a nice run…but maybe those best years are behind us, and maybe network television is not quite what it used to be.

Littlefield still had one great hitter in the lineup: ratings powerhouse Cheers. Then he got a call from series star Ted Danson: “This is my last season on Cheers. I’m not coming back.” So Littlefield took over the #1 network of the 80s with almost no cards in his hand…

Click to read more: The New York Observer.

Posted in Blog by Seth Shapiro.

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