Google is planning to spend as much as $100 million to develop original content for YouTube as part of a site redesign around channels based on categories, according to a report published in The Wall Street Journal today that cites unnamed people familiar with the matter.
"YouTube is looking to introduce 20 or so 'premium channels' that would feature 5 to 10 hours of professionally-produced original programming a week," while other channels would be created from existing content on the site, one of the unidentified sources said, according to the story.
The changes will happen over time beginning later this year and could include channels created by Hollywood production companies and directors, the report said.
A YouTube spokesperson declined to confirm or deny the report, saying the company does not comment on rumors and speculation. However, he provided this statement: "YouTube saw incredible growth in 2010 and we're excited about the future. We are always working on updating the site and improving the general user experience and interface. We do not, however, have any plans to dramatically change the site's design in the near future."
The report, if true, would mark a change in strategy for YouTube, which has historically maintained that it is not in the content creation business. However, the company does have grant programs that enable partners to create content for the site. The site also allows people to create channels for specific content, but is not organized by topics, relying instead on a search box for navigation.
The news follows reports that Netflix is in talks with Hollywood firms, directors, and actors to create original content as online video sites scramble to compete for viewers who are turning their attention from TV to the Internet for entertainment.
Updated 3:30 p.m. PT with comment from Google and background information.