Update: Google reportedly to overhaul YouTube

Video website to add 'premium channels' as it takes on age of Internet-connected TVs

Google's YouTube site is in the midst of an overhaul, according to a Wall Street Journal report Wednesday.

The video-based website is trying to position itself to better handle the age of Internet-connected televisions, the Journal report said, citing people familiar with the matter. YouTube is reorganizing its home page around "channels," or topics, such as sports and arts.

The Journal also reported that the website is working to include about 20 "premium channels" that would showcase five to 10 hours of professionally produced, original programming each week.

The changes, which reportedly will cost YouTube about $100 million, should start to be phased in by the end of the year.

Google did not respond to a request for comment before deadline.

A source close to Google told Computerworld that YouTube is working on changes to the site, but the company is not planning a big redesign. Instead, the changes are expected to be implemented over months or even the next year.

"You won't wake up overnight and see a new YouTube," the source said.

The same source also confirmed that YouTube is looking to align itself with the growing trend of Internet-connected television. YouTube designers are working to develop channels that would make it easier for users -- who would be viewing the site on their computers and on their TVs -- to find the content that they want to watch.

Zeus Kerravala, an analyst at Yankee Group, said it's about time that YouTube made some significant site changes.

"The entire YouTube experience hasn't changed a whole lot since it started," Kerravala said. "The original purpose was for people to upload their own videos and share their own content. It's remarkable what it's evolved into. They've got their own awards. They've got TV stations posting their own content. Companies are using it."

That kind of change in both use and audience means that YouTube is ripe for adjustments that would make it more appealing to a mass market and not just the video hobbyist, Kerravala added.

"I suppose when you look at the different role it's playing now, an update is certainly warranted," he said.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her e-mail address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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