Saturday, 9 November 2013

The chamber of horrors that is #YouTubeShows

YouTube is like the Tower of London. It’s a hotchpotch of structures, put up with successive king’s ransoms, and overall gleamingly impressive and attractive. But like the Tower of London, you can open doors on horror chambers.

One of these is YouTubeShows. I suppose only a few people in the world know in which dark period YouTubeShows was conceived. If this were the Lord of the Rings, I would employ a party of dwarves to sing about it. By the time YouTubeShows reached me, it was a half-formed wish to bring the UK terrestrial network into YouTube. The BBC, Channel4 and Channel Five put their programmes out as shows, with vanity addresses starting

That suited us at Fieldsports Channel. We like our programmes to be shows for lots of reasons.

We have 206 episodes of our flagship programme Fieldsports Britain. YouTube playlists are limited to 200 films. Shows are unlimited.

Become enabled for YouTubeShows and you get a nice shiny new ‘Shows’ tab in Video Manager, where you can add new shows, give them their own artwork, and create identities for stuff you are doing within your channel. We cover subjects as diverse as clay pigeon shooting and flyfishing. YouTubeShows allows us to separate out our films in a way the playlists, with their one-size-fits-all artwork, cannot.

So what went wrong with Shows for YouTube?

Firstly, the TV shows from the terrestrials turned out to be not as popular as the networks, Neilson and Barb have led us to believe over the years. It must have been crucifyingly embarrassing for UK TV star Sarah Beeny to see her shows on YouTube averaging just double-digit views.

Instead of abandoning the networks, YouTube went on the offensive. If the YouTube algorithm is a bit perplexing in the mainstream part of the site, it turns cartwheels out in YouTubeShows. Go to and try it out.

FieldsportsBritain is listed in Sports and it averages 30,000 views an episode. However, ‘Top Selling’ is Fox’s series The League, which is too coy to show its viewcounts. The League’s recent episodes have each achieved a stunning 0 likes and 0 dislikes, which gives you a clue.

We are a weekly show, 7pm UK time every Wednesday. The ‘Latest’ Sports Shows list films going back six months, most of them from Channel4, the sole survivor of the UK terrestrial networks on YouTube. They do not list us.

The next thing to go wrong was YouTube’s next move. YouTube followed the Richard III protocol and simply walled up the princes in the Tower, hoping nobody would go and look for them. Shows are hard to find and I don’t think I have ever seen them promoted out in the wider YouTube.

In the latest version of YouTubeShows, there are lots of references to ‘free’ episodes, which makes me think that there is a vague idea in Googleland that YouTubeShows could become the mainstay of the YouTube Pay channels – a kind of halfway house to what I have no doubt will be the superbly successful But there seems to be no appetite for that from either viewers or channels.

As a YouTubeShows' supporter, I was sad when I went to apply for a new show we are launching on our channel and found that YouTubeShows had been discontinued. We plug our show pages in all our social media and most YouTube film descriptions. We believe in YouTubeShows, for all its faults.

According to YouTube on, ‘We are in the process of more deeply integrating the Shows feature with other parts of YouTube, such as channels and playlists. The new series playlist feature is a great way to organise your episodic content moving forward.’

The YouTube wonk who wrote that believes saying something is great makes it great. No it doesn’t. I have started to see more and more of this kind of behaviour from YouTube. Mendacity is a first step to evil, which would be trite if it were not for Google’s promise about evil..

For as long as it lasts, you can view our show page at It’s a bit wobbly, in keeping with the spirit of YouTubeShows. It doesn’t always list the latest episode at the top. It chooses which others to list on a more random basis than we are used to even from YouTube. Its view-counters seem to have a mind of their own, clocking only a handful of the our viewers and usually maxing at 301.

I’m not complaining. If I were complaining, I’d be writing this on the YouTube Partner Forum, which itself can feel like shrieking in a dungeon.

Working in the YouTube environment is a bit like working in the Tower of London. You never know when you are going to get boiling oil poured on you. But it keeps you on your toes.

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