When YouTube unveiled its slate of new channels to advertisers in New York City on Tuesday night, the Google-owned company enlisted none other than Jay-Z to close the event with a song we’ve all heard before but was oh-so-appropriate: that’s right, “Empire State of Mind.”
While Jay-Z’s appearance may have just been a high-profile booking in an upfront season that has already seen performances from musicians like John Legend (Vevo), B.o.B. (BET), Gym Class Heroes (E!) and Cobra Starship (Alloy), there’s actually a more formal connection to YouTube programming. Jay-Z has been in talks with YouTube channel partner MyIsh and founder Michael Hirschhorn about a potential docu-series, tentatively titled “Life & Times of Jay-Z.”
YouTube has already committed over $100 million to help fund over 100 original channels – including music partners like Pitchfork, Bowery Presents, Noisey and Warner Sound. The video hub also announced at Wednesday’s event its plans to invest an additional $200 million in marketing costs to help promote the channels. For prospective sponsors, the channels ain’t cheap: YouTube is asking $5 to $10 million for a single-channel sponsorship, and as much as $62 million for a whole category (music, food, travel, etc.), according to sales documents obtained by Advertising Age.
Held at the Beacon Theater on the Upper West Side, YouTube’s upfront also featured performances by Flo Rida, Pharrell Williams and the Neon Trees. Over the course of two weeks, at the “digital upfronts,” YouTube and other online giants are pitching original programs to the ad industry, TV-style. For its part, YouTube — dubbing its presentation “Brandcast” — announced it would pour $200 million into promoting the launch of such channels as “WIGS,” which is geared toward women and will feature series starring Julia Stiles and Jennifer Garner, among other big names.