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YouTube Has Won the War to Change TV

By Tim Beyers – Mar 19, 2014 at 5:15PM

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In the wake of Time Warner leading an investment in YouTube channel Machinima, Walt Disney courts Maker Studios in a deal that could value the online network at $500 million.

TV's biggest programmers and broadcasters are turning to YouTube for help finding and engaging audiences. The latest to join in? Time Warner (TWX) and Walt Disney (DIS -0.18%).

On March 10, Machinima announced an $18 million financing round led by Warner. MK Capital and Redpoint Ventures also participated, along with Google's (GOOGL -1.76%) recently unveiled Google Capital arm. A day later, Recode's Peter Kafka reported that Disney is courting YouTube programming aggregator Maker Studios at what amounts to a $500 million valuation.  

Goodbye, remote. Hello, mouse.
Can investors expect more Disney and Warner content to show up on YouTube as a result of these deals? That's tougher to say, though in Warner's case, the studio talks as if Machinima will grow to be an important distribution partner.

"Machinima connects with a worldwide audience of millennial fans and creators," said Craig Hunegs, President, Business and Strategy, Warner Bros. Television Group, in a press release. "We're excited about the opportunity to work closely with Machinima and its channel partners to reach new audiences, create new original content, and discover new talent."

History backs up the bluster. Look at The CW, a joint venture with CBS that plays an increasingly important role in distributing Warner IP. Arrow, for example, which is based on characters sourced from Warner's DC Entertainment subsidiary.

While Arrow is based on Warner's DC Comics characters, The CW airs the show Wednesday nights. Credit: The CW/DC Entertainment.

Lower-tier networks such as Machinima on YouTube or The CW on broadcast TV are gaining importance because it's easier for these smaller-traffic destinations to cater to niches, which, in turn, makes them interesting to advertisers. What better way to reach your demographic than to advertise on the very network that caters specifically to their interests?

Tim Beyers is a member of the Motley Fool Rule Breakers stock-picking team and the Motley Fool Supernova Odyssey I mission. He owned shares of Google, Time Warner, and Walt Disney at the time of publication. Check out Tim's web home and portfolio holdings or connect with him on Google+Tumblr, or Twitter, where he goes by @milehighfool. You can also get his insights delivered directly to your RSS reader.

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