Lately, YouTube has become one of my go-tos for original programming. I'm not alone. Niche channels are also using Google's (NASDAQ:GOOGL) video streaming service to broadcast new programming that would otherwise be expensive to distribute via conventional means.
This month, Syfy debuted a handful of new episodes previewing a prequel of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica series that ran from 2003 to 2009. Called Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome, the 10-episode series will be released in a two-hour Syfy special next year. Luke Pasqualino stars as William Adama in the years before he returns to the battlestar Galactica as its commanding officer.
I've streamed the first four episodes via YouTube, and so far, the cinematography is just as amazing as it was in the last series. But don't take my word for it. Check out the trailer and then navigate over to Machinima's YouTube channel to watch episodes for yourself:
As an investor, I love how Syfy thought nothing of launching to the Web first. We don't know if cost played a role in the decision, but I'm also not sure it matters. A demo reel of the series that leaked in March has drawn more than 180,000 views.
The message? YouTube, like Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), has achieved enough scale to carry a show. We can't say the same about Amazon.com (NASDAQ:AMZN) -- not while it's handling just 1.75% of downstream video traffic -- while Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iTunes acts more like a repository than a channel.
But it's actually worse than that. Sure, iCloud gives iTunes shoppers the distinct advantage of buying a show and then watching it on iPad, Apple TV, iPhone, or Mac. YouTube is equally pervasive when it comes to free content broadcast via unique channels such as Machinima.
YouTube is also offers plenty of social sharing options, including the ability to embed videos just about anywhere on the Web. You can't click a button to share an iTunes file. Heck, you can't even post to Twitter about it -- unless, of course, you leave iTunes to post to Twitter. In a business like entertainment, where discoverability is so important, it makes zero sense to bet on iTunes when the alternatives offer so much more.
Someday, Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome will be offered on iTunes. But it won't be because the showrunners want to gain an audience. Instead, it'll be because they've already built a following and want to offer new viewers the convenience of owning episodes.