EXCLUSIVE: British Pathé and Mediakraft Bring the 20th Century to YouTube

/ Apr 14, 2014

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History buff? Or just enjoy watching videos of years gone by? Well now you’re in luck: Historical film archive British Pathé is bringing its entire library to YouTube with the help of European MCN Mediakraft Networks.

To date, British Pathé, which for decades presented its content in newsreels, cine-magazines, and documentaries, has only put a few clips on YouTube. Four hundred fifty to be exact — which doesn’t sound like a small number, until you realize that the company’s archives span 85,000 videos and more than 3,500 hours of broadcast-quality footage. In fact, it’s less than 0.5% of the entire archive, according to Victoria Spiegelberg of British Pathé.

“In recent times, though, we have found there is an ever-increasing demand across the globe from online newspapers, magazines, and other websites for the editorial value of our archive content,” she says. “But the nature of their business means they require video content instantly, which until now has not been possible. We wanted to change this.”

In comes Mediakraft, which will provide British Pathé with the YouTube expertise to package and distribute this treasure trove of content for a global audience. The companies will roll out almost the entire library on Tuesday, April 15, on British Pathé’s YouTube channel, giving viewers the chance to experience (or re-experience) significant historical moments as well as videos showcasing all sorts of interesting lifestyles and cultures.

But it doesn’t end there. British Pathé and Mediakraft will also team up to produce original programming inspired by and tied to this vast archive. This content will “place the historic videos in a contemporary context to fit the demands of modern audiences,” according to the companies.

Several projects are already in development on this front, which will kickstart with an original channel about World War I. With this particular project, the plan is to celebrate the centennial of World War I by “covering” it from beginning to end. New episodes, featuring a host and edited with British Pathé footage, will publish once a week for the next four years. “We’re recapturing the feeling of those days,” says Moritz Meyer of Mediakraft.

Going forward, Mediakraft and British Pathé will create multiple shows and channels tied to the different types of content in the archives.

Everything will be available in English. But seeing as the reason for this deal is to take this content global, a lot of the content, including the WWI-themed channel and show, will also be available in other languages.

Commenting on the size and scope of what British Pathé and Mediakraft are looking to do, Spiegelberg says: “This will be of notable value for articles about historic events and those current events which have a historic relevance.”

Though she’s quick to add: “However, this resource won’t just be pertinent to journalists; it is for the whole online community. It is an education tool for teachers and students and we want members of the public to find hidden gems.”

Mediakraft’s YouTube network currently encompasses 1,500 channels, including Y-Titty, who have been referred to as the “German Smosh” and have more than 2.8 million subscribers. In total, the company, which launched two-and-a-half years ago, says it has an audience of more than 14 million unique viewers.

Jocelyn Johnson contributed to the reporting of this story.

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