NZ On Air partners with YouTube, launches $300K fund for online content creators

NZ On Air has made a move to grow New Zealand’s online talent in a partnership with YouTube at a time when its channels are followed like TV series. However, according to new research, the same cannot be said about the platform’s branded channels.

Teaming up with Google, NZ On Air hopes to give successful New Zealand YouTube creators the opportunity to hone their craft, learn from experts and build more audiences with a $300,000 joint fund called Skip Ahead.

NZ On Air is already running a webseries fund, which saw eight of the 109 applicants receive support last year. However, head of digital Brenda Leeuwenberg says one of the challenges NZ On Air has with online content is finding audiences and making them aware of the content, whereas YouTubers already have a strong following.

A similar collaboration has already been seen between YouTube and Screen Australia. Its Skip Ahead programme is in its third year and is now looking to do longer form, almost feature-length content Leeuwenberg says.

Starting a similar programme in New Zealand fits with NZ On Air’s strategy to ‘go where the audiences are’, ensuring local content reaches diverse audiences on multiple platforms.

Leewenberg says NZ On Air is aware that audiences are fragmented and “all over the place” and while there is still an audience for TV, there are people online and NZ On Air wants to make sure those who are not engaged in mainstream television are still being exposed to local voices, stories and content.

Growth in watch-time on YouTube is accelerating in New Zealand, up 55 percent year on year, according to YouTube data. The number of hours of content being added to YouTube has also grown 80 percent year on year.

However, Leeuwenberg says TV is still where the majority of eyeballs are. Next month NZ On Air will be releasing its latest audience research and it shows that while television audience numbers are dropping off, it is where most people are still being exposed to content.

In the last financial year, NZ On Air gave over $84 million of funding to television.

Though the shift to digital has been more pronounced in younger audiences, she says it is not limited to that group. NZ On Air has funded webseries for all ages, like High Road with a target audience of 30+ and Flat3, which is not age specific.

Leeuwenberg says applicants for the Skip Ahead programme can produce all kinds of content. 

“They could be the lifestyle vloggers or hair and make-up people who might have a vision to create a more narrative driven series, it might be comedy, it might be drama, it might be documentary”.

In addition to the funding, YouTube and Google will provide the YouTubers a chance to up-skill, with training in how to produce content, how to write and how to promote their channels. While NZ On Air is about promoting local, Leewenberg says it will also help the YouTubers gain an international audience.

A request for proposals has been issued today. It is available on the NZ On Air website. Applications close 30 August.

While money is being poured in to YouTube to support content creators and draw an audience to the platform, new research released by Brightcove suggests those eyes may not be the ones brands should chase. It found that branded YouTube channels are not as effective at pushing purchases as they draw users attention away from branded content. Instead it suggests videos should be integrated into branded sites and social media.

According to the report, 67 percent of people found the relevant content when video was integrated into the brand’s website and search functionality. This compares to 13 percent on branded YouTube channels, where most users opted for the YouTube search bar, which lead them away from brand’s content.

The research also found consumers are twice as likely to buy products after watching a video that was integrated into the purchasing process, versus users consuming content on a branded YouTube channel.

Lastly, consumers were found to be three times more likely to take additional brand-focused steps, such as downloading a step-by-step guide, viewing detailed product information or looking at related product, after viewing an onsite video with relevant calls to action, when compared to users consuming content on a branded YouTube channel.

YouTube is also set to face competition as Facebook pulls out its wallet to boost its live video function. According to the Wall Street Journal, it is spending $50 million on arrangements with content creators, including media outlets CNN, the New York Times and celebrities Kevin Hart and Gordon Ramsay.

The arrangements encourage a steady stream of high-quality videos and will lead to Facebook brining in ads and subsequent ad revenue.

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