YouTube played coy about rumors of a possible acquisition of Next New Networks in our February feature "Blown Away," but now they're coming clean. Not only is YouTube acquiring the web-video-production outfit that recently songified Charlie Sheen's "winning" rants to the tune of 21 million views (and counting!), it is also launching YouTube Next, a team that will help its ragtag community of video producers go pro through industry meet-ups, investment and training opportunities, and initiatives for audience development. Still, YouTube's push for higher-quality original content under recently installed CEO Salar Kamangar may only be the beginning. It started hosting live streams from partners Revision3 and Streamin' Garage in April, and rumors are swirling that YouTube may offer Hollywood types as much as $5 million to appear in original, three-minute-long shows for their own branded channels. Under this deal, the stars would hold the rights to their videos while YouTube profits, or at least tries to earn back production investments through something more traditional: ad revenue.
A version of this article appeared in the June 2011 issue of Fast Company magazine.