Turns out the February rumors (which followed on the heels of December rumors) that Google's (Nasdaq:GOOG) YouTube was eyeing video producer Next New Networks were spot on. YouTube Monday announced it had acquired the company with reports saying the price tag was less than $100 million. The move gives YouTube a foundation on which it can start developing, packaging and building audiences around pro-quality original web video programming, something Next New Networks has been doing for the past two years.
"Our company will become a core component of YouTube Next, a new team that will focus on supercharging content creator development on YouTube, driving deeper expertise in partner audience development, and incubating new ideas that can be shared with the broader community," NNN CEO Fred Seibert said.
The company, which since March 2007 has drawn more than 2 billion views and 6 million subscribers across their partner networks of channels and shows, will continue to work out of its offices in New York as the YouTube Next Lab and Audience Development Group. Seibert will be leaving the company to continue producing cartoons from his company, Frederator Studios. NNN current chairman, Lance Podell, will also be joining the YouTube Next team as global head for the group.
YouTube says it will use the company, which is headquartered in New York and backed by former Nickelodeon and MTV execs, as a "laboratory for experimentation and innovation."
"We are thrilled with the new capability the team brings and the positive impact it will have making our YouTube partners more successful," said Tom Pickett, Director of Global Content Operations and YouTube Next.
Pickett took pains to dispel rumors that YouTube was looking to get into the content business itself.
"We're focused on building a great technology platform for creators, and so we leave the actual creation of great videos to the people who do it best: our partners," he said. "This new group and the addition of the Next New Networks team doesn't change that. But being a great platform for creators also means helping our partners get the tools and guidance they need to develop higher quality videos and drive bigger audiences to their work."
YouTube said its Partner Program grew to over 15,000 partners worldwide, many of whom earned enough from their videos and the Google ads that run with them to craft a career out of it. YouTube said the number of partners making over $1,000 a month is up 300 percent since the beginning of 2010.
"We now have hundreds of partners making six figures a year," Picket said. "But frankly, 'hundreds' making a living on YouTube isn't enough and in 2011 we know we can and should do more to help our partners grow."
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