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Amateur hour over: YouTube going prime time

With Google handing out more than $100 million in seed money to professional content creators, amateur hour may not exactly be finished at its storied video site, but the sleeping kitties and exploding pop bottles will have to make room for the likes of Madonna and The Onion--and as soon as next month.

Amateur hour may not exactly be over at YouTube, but it looks like the time has finally come for the sleeping kitties and exploding pop bottles to make some room for professionally produced content from the likes of Madonna, The Onion, TED Conferences, and others.

Robert Kyncl, YouTube's global head of content partnerships, said in a blog post this evening that "channels created by well-known personalities and content producers from the TV, film, music, news, and sports fields, as well as...some of YouTube's own existing partners" will begin rolling out "starting next month and continuing over the next year."

And YouTube served up a sneak preview page that gives a rundown of the new channels.

"Our goal with this channels expansion,..." Kyncl said in his blog post, "is to bring an even broader range of entertainment to YouTube, giving you more reasons to keep coming back...And for advertisers, these channels will represent a new way to engage and reach their global consumers."

The news had been expected. The Wall Street Journal published a couple of reports earlier saying that YouTube parent Google had handed out more than $100 million in seed money to get professional content creators to start producing for the storied and sometimes chaotic video site. The Journal had also said an announcement was near.

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Google will give most of the producers an advance of $5 million in exchange for a promise to produce a couple hours of programming a week, the Journal's All Things Digital blog said tonight. Once that money is recouped through ad dollars, Google and the content creators will split advertising revenues. The videos will be available only on YouTube for at least the initial year of the three-year agreements, ATD reported.

As ATD points out, $5 million isn't a whole lot of money in terms of conventional film and TV production, so the producers of the programming will have to keep costs down and/or seek other funding. But some of the new partners are already well-versed in cranking out the content for YouTube, ATD said. Machinima and Maker Studios, for example, specialize in fare for the video site.

Kyncl's announcement marks a significant shift for YouTube, which became a cultural touchstone through its reliance on sometimes amateurish, but nonetheless irresistible, third-party content.

With consumers starting to watch video online as much as they do over cable, Google sees an opportunity to create a sort of next-generation cable offering. The company's brand-new update of its Google TV product will let Google devote more effort to the product's YouTube feature, and that, along with the new channels, signals a move toward this new-cable objective. YouTube may not replace cable anytime soon, but it could perhaps be groomed into a nice supplement.

In addition to Madonna (who will be associated with a dance channel) and the other aforementioned partners, the list includes Jay-Z, Deepak Chopra, Shaquille O'Neal (the centerpiece of a comedy channel), BedRocket Properties (which will team with Major League Soccer to create a soccer channel, and with Wasserman Media Group for an action sports channel), News Corp.'s IGN videogame Web site (which will co-produce a game-oriented channel), InStyle magazine, The Wall Street Journal, skateboarder Tony Hawk, and many others.

Business Insider has what it calls a full list of partners here. And, again, the sneak peek page is here.

Apparently we've come a long way since those heady days of experimenting with Diet Coke and Mentos.

Update, October 29, 10:03 a.m. PT: Adds mention of recent Google TV update and modifies section about Google's cable ambitions.