YouTube does local — but will anyone watch?

As the Wall Street Journal and others reported on the weekend, YouTube has struck a deal with a regional U.S. TV network to run the network’s local content on YouTube and share any advertising revenue with the company — although the exact terms of the arrangement aren’t clear.


While not a huge deal either for the TV industry or for YouTube — which is probably more concerned about the $1-billion lawsuit it is facing from Viacom for hosting unlicensed material — the arrangement with Hearst-Argyle Television is interesting because it is the first revenue-sharing deal with a local TV network.

YouTube will carry news, weather and entertainment video content from five of the company’s TV stations. Hearst-Argyle has 29 stations, including outlets in Boston, New Hampshire, Sacramento, Pittsburgh and Baltimore. They are affiliates of ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox. Hearst has about an 18 per cent share of the U.S. market, according to the company.

The big question — or one of the big questions — is whether anyone other than local audiences will choose to watch Hearst’s local content (the other big question is whether anyone will advertise on it when it is posted to YouTube). The network said that it expects some viewers might see the appeal — for example, parents of college-age students in another city might watch the local weather or news from their son or daughter’s city.

Daisy Whitney makes a good point on her TVWeek blog: how would someone — who didn’t already know the network content was there — find the Hearst content? It’s one thing to put it up on YouTube, but how do you make sure that your intended audience finds out about it?