YouTube Drops $500k on New Gear for Creators

While Vimeo (s IACI) is sending its contributors to video school, YouTube (s GOOG) is investing half a million dollars in better equipment for its top producers. The Google-owned online video firm announced on its blog Wednesday that it is issuing $1,000 credits to B&H Photo to 500 of its content partners.

The news comes as YouTube continues to invest in user-submitted content. Earlier this year, YouTube announced it would spend $5 million as part of its Partner Grant Fund, a program designed to help independent content creators fund production of new videos. But as we pointed out, that program is mainly about backing creators that predictably drive millions of views with each video they submit. YouTube was also rumored to be looking into an acquisition of Next New Networks, possibly as a way to more easily find and promote independent producers.

YouTube has clearly leaned hard on its homegrown talent to drive video views and engagement in lieu of striking deals with premium content firms. Considering Netflix (s NFLX) spent more than $1 billion on content deals this year, the $5 million it committed to its Partner Grant Program and the $500,000 YouTube is handing out to content partners today is a pretty small investment.

At the same time, YouTube is bringing in some pretty big returns from its meager spending on UGC. Some analysts estimated that the online video site could pull in nearly $1 billion in sales this year, most of which comes from ads that run on its home page. YouTube is also getting better at serving video ads against its mostly user-submitted content, as it reported that one in seven videos are now monetized.

But there are some indications that YouTube might seek to become more about professionally produced content soon. Google has hired some heavy hitters from Netflix and Paramount (s via) to join its content acquisition team and woo Hollywood executives, and the company will reportedly expanded availability of movies and TV shows that it will market heavily in 2011.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Chelsea(:

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