For minorities, the medium offers a way to push back against stereotypes on network television, said Maureen Guthman, the head of brand strategy and acquisitions for the African American-focused channel TV One. Blacks can present themselves “completely unfiltered and without [someone] telling us, ‘You’ve got to be more this’ or ‘You’ve got to be more that,’ ” she said.
While much of what’s on YouTube is raw, the production behind some of the shows is growing more sophisticated. Tutele, a popular Hispanic American channel, was launched by Maker Studios, a company with 70 million subscribers over 400 YouTube channels. Maker, which is also behind YouTube’s biggest hit, Ray William Johnson, also recently snagged former Disney vice president Chris Williams to be its chief programming officer.
“The Internet is moving so quickly in many directions that it’s hard to predict,” Guthman said. “I see some sort of merging” between online video and traditional television, she said.
It’s too early to say how this will play out, but a shift is coming, said Forrester analyst James McQuivey. Future content producers may choose to bypass the networks altogether, for instance, because they can go to advertisers directly with proof that there’s a demand for their content, he said.
“That may not be the case when you’re Joss Whedon or J.J. Abrams, but what about the next J.J. Abrams?” he said. “Will that person ever do a network television deal? I don’t think so.”
Regardless of the future of television, McQuivey said, the trend of minorities on online video is welcome.
“There’s a thriving opportunity for any of these groups to see a rise of content targeted at them from their own people,” he said, “and that will be a great thing.”